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NEWS: Industry, space agencies interested in mining water, rare-earth elements on the moon

The Canadian Press reports, “Canada could play a key role in a new international space race, with the next sprint to the moon gearing up as an extra-terrestrial gold rush. …Canada could figure prominently in any discussion about lunar exploration, with nearly one-quarter of the world’s top mining companies headquartered here and this country also known for robotics like the famous Canadarm. Several countries, including China, have expressed a desire to start mining the moon’s resources. The mining industry is now waiting for the Canadian Space Agency to make its intentions known, while the agency awaits direction from the federal government. …Drilling for lunar resources may not be that far off. Some predict it could start by the end of this decade.”

Mining for water ice on the Moon
“Since 2004, Neptec, NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) have all been working on a drilling project, called RESOLVE, which involves water ice on the Moon. ‘It’s a very wet place and water is the Holy Grail for space exploration,’ said Dale Boucher, a senior developer at NORCAT, said in an interview from his office in Sudbury, Ont. ‘Water provides life support and, when you break it down into hydrogen and oxygen, it will provide fuel for ascent and even fuel for electric power generation, like in a fuel cell.’ With hydrogen, the moon could hold the energy necessary to launch flights into deeper space. Several countries are even looking beyond the moon for possible mining sites, to Mars and also to asteroids.”

“Boucher says there can’t be a long-term lunar presence without water. And before water can be produced on the moon, there would first have to be some kind of mining. Producing lunar H2o is necessary — because to ship up the water required to sustain human life, there would be an out-of-this-world price tag. ‘The average cost right now is estimated at a quarter of a million dollars for a one-litre bottle of water soft-landed on the Moon,’ Boucher said. …Tony Colaprete (NASA’s lead scientist on RESOLVE) says the next step is to find the veins of water on the moon and map out its distribution. That’s where RESOLVE would go to work, drilling for samples and analyzing their components. He says the equipment will be ready to be flown to the moon at the end of 2014 (but it is more likely to happen around the end of the decade). He adds that people are already interested in flying it, both commercially and within NASA.”

Mining for Helium-3 for nuclear power
“The moon is home to a number of compounds that are not readily available on Earth — like Helium-3, a gas that could potentially fuel future nuclear-fusion power plants. Such a development would hold drastic implications for human activity, beginning with energy consumption. The moon also contains gold, platinum-group elements, and rare-earth elements.”

The Canadian Press article is at http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/TopStories/20120226/canada-lunar-exploration-120226/.