It’s called the New New World of the 21st century. The Moon. That glowing white sphere in the night sky and all her virgin bounty, upon and within, will very soon become what was in the 14th and 15th centuries to the European and Asian naval empires of the time, the newest treasures of extreme profits awaiting today’s space-voyaging mega-corporations, their Boards of Directors and/or private owners and businesses, hunting with little to no restrictions… untapped, untold riches for the taking.
Fifty years after humans first set foot on the Moon, scientific discoveries within the last 3-8 years have fueled excitement to go back, particularly commercial fervor for private businesses to go to the lunar surface—this time, perhaps, to stay and mine profitable minerals and their byproducts. This therefore, for the sake of advancing humankind’s progress of interplanetary travel from Earth.
What has really stoked the flames for immediate lunar commercialization? Water.
But life’s necessary H2O isn’t the only precious treasure up there. The Moon has Helium-3, titanium in highly concentrated form, titanium ore (ilmenite), platinum group metals such as palladium, osmium, iridium, and of course platinum, as well as other rare Earth metals, including the big one: gold. Need we say anymore? Step right up, our next explorers, Lunar 49’ers, to blastoff and begin the Great Moon Rush! Que song…
The New New World and History’s Lessons
When Europeans, and to an extent Asians, discovered the North and South American continents back in the 14th – 15th centuries, what was on their agenda? Why did they arrive? Why did they stay? Why did some return to their native lands? Had everyone benefited? Had everything benefited from the Age of Colonization like the ecosystems and animals? Does there always have to be the human behavior of take, take, take? Suck out, suck out, suck out until all value is zero… of whatever remains!? Will the Moon remain?
One of the corporations almost ready to launch to the Moon is called Moon Express. They are “Redefining Possible“! Their mission is to return “…to the Moon and unlock its mysteries and resources for the benefit of humanity.” That sounds noble. I’m quiet sure the naval fleets and explorers of the 14th-15th centuries during the Age of Discovery promoted the exact same message, at least from their kings and queens. Moon Express calls the Lunar treasure chest the 8th Continent. The resources awaiting humanity are, they explain…
Like the Earth, the Moon has been enriched with vast resources through billions of years of asteroid bombardment. Unlike the Earth, these resources are largely on or near the lunar surface, relatively accessible. We are blazing a trail to the Moon to seek and harvest these resources to support a new space renaissance, where economic trade between countries will eventually become trade between worlds.
As a seasoned traveler myself, the unavoidable question at any crossroads of exploration, discovery, and the business of profitable resources at any time in history is this: can we trust humanity and its leaders to do what is best for all of humanity AND the silent giver, the Mother of More Life or Profits?
According to Moon Express co-founder and chairman Naveen Jain, “Moon Express now has all the capital it needs to land its small robotic spacecraft on the surface of the moon in November or December of 2017.” Obviously this did not happen. But the company’s goal is twofold: 1) mine the moon for valuable resources, such as Helium-3, gold, platinum group metals, rare earth metals and water; and 2) help researchers develop human space colonies for future generations. Simple, right?
Maybe not. How well have humans and humanity managed and regulated survival, the greater good for the greatest number, and the treatment of this life-giving planet over the last millenia or even the last century or two?
What are the long-term plans and condition of the Moon now that we will have two planets feeding us and our machines? With so much of Earth’s current ecosystems—e.g. high & low tides—to some degree reliant on the Moon—and some of those ecosystems now so fragile due to human activity and over-industrialization—is there a real danger/risk? In the future could OVER-MINING or unregulated, unfettered industrial consumption cause further damage or exacerbation to our lunar-dependent Earth systems? Consider the environmental and human impacts of our modern strip-mining or surface-mining and dredging.
And then there’s the fact that the Moon has countless craters! New ones about every 5 to 50-years. Now WHY are there craters all over the lunar surface? Does that pose a danger to Lunar-tics? 😉
Ponder this. The Moon is only 1/8th of Earth’s mass. It’s gravity is 1/6th of Earth’s. Is that 1/8th mass beneficial or dangerous to our planet and species? With aggressive, unregulated mining of materials, what will change about the Moon after one or two decades of building our lunar-space creations and putting them into orbit—or somewhere else other than the Moon? When does the Moon’s mass/gravity begin to significantly shift? How would it shift? What effect(s) would that have on Earth?
Losing our Moon or disfiguring it so drastically that it is clearly changed and changing things here on Earth may not have been a question 10-50 years ago, but it should be now. We have always known that our Sun will eventually turn into a Red Giant star and consume or utterly vaporize Earth and the Moon anyway, so take solace in that.
However, we have also always known that the Moon’s orbit is slowly moving away from Earth, by about 4-centimeters per year. A very small unnoticeable amount to 3 or 8 generations of humans. But to 100 generation descendants? Two hundred? Those are unavoidable consequences. Now, presented with the possibility of mining the Moon of all her resources—or to say, all her mass-causing gravity—with little to no forethought of that effect, do we need to concern ourselves NOT of our Sun becoming a Red Giant, but with humanity changing the Moon’s effect/benefit onto Earth? What will 30 or 50 years of aggressive mining and removal of lunar material do to the metaphorical rows and rows of gravity dominoes?
And without the Moon, or its perfect pull right now, Earth’s varying axis/tilt would be more severe, and climate effects would be a lot more severe than they’re already becoming! Does the Moon deserve a lot more respect and awe than we presently give her (and Earth actually) and less What can you give me right now for as cheap as possible or completely free!?
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
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