Answer. Moon exploration has many possibilities:
- We could make use of lunar resources to facilitate scientific and economic activity in the vicinity of both Earth and Moon (so-called cis-lunar space) as well as future exploration deeper into the Solar System.
- We can consider the importation of lunar resources to the Earth’s surface where they would contribute directly to the global economy.
- In addition to possible ice deposits, it has been known since the early studies of the Apollo samples that the lunar soil contains volatiles, substances derived ultimately from the solar wind (e.g. hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen, and at high latitudes, hydroxide and perhaps water), and these may also be exploitable.
- lunar surface rocks and soils are rich in potentially useful but heavy (and thus expensive to launch from Earth) raw materials such as magnesium, aluminium, silicon, iron and titanium. Therefore, if a lunar industrial infrastructure is gradually built up, the Moon may be able to provide more sophisticated products to Earth-orbiting facilities. Examples might include titanium and aluminium alloys for structural components, and silicon-based photovoltaic cells for solar power. The key business case for sourcing these materials on the Moon is simple. It takes about 20 times less energy to launch a given mass from the surface of the Moon into Earth orbit compared to launching it from the Earth’s surface to Earth orbit.
- The light isotope of helium (helium-3), which is implanted into lunar soils by the solar wind is often cited as an exception because it is perceived by some to be a potential fuel for future nuclear fusion reactors on Earth.
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