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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the blow-it-up dept.
MarkWhittington writes "With the Chang'e 3 and its rover Jade Rabbit safely ensconced on the lunar surface, the question arises: is it time to start dividing up the moon and its resources? It may well be an issue by the middle of the current century. With China expressing interest in exploiting lunar resources and a number of private companies, such Moon Express, working for the same goal, a mechanism for who gets what is something that needs looking into. Moon Daily quotes a Russian official as suggesting that it can all be done in a civilized manner, through international agreements. On the other hand, law professor and purveyor of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds suggests that China might spark a moon race by having a private company claim at least parts of the moon. 'International cooperation will certainly rule supreme while there are no economic interests, while it is not clear where commercial profits lie. Scientists can't help communicating with each other and sharing ideas.'"
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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources

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  • by Otaku-GenX (3414253) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:30AM (#45745735)
    The UN isn't the best group all the time, but they are the largest international and best organized and most accepted international organization to do this. The moon is one of the best sources for Helium 3 IIRC.
  • Re:Why bother? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:41AM (#45745847)

    Bridges standing, roads open, clean water, electricity: those are all *major* problems that China and India actively struggle with. We don't.

    Except for the bridges that have collapsed and the ones that are in critical need of maintenance; roads barely worth the name; constant water boil advisories across various parts of the country and - I take it you've never lived in the Northeast if you think we don't still laughably struggle with electricity.

    Keep waving that flag though and ignoring our ailing infrastructure. We'll be number one in the race to the bottom at least, I guess.

  • by netsavior (627338) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:47AM (#45745907)
    Helium 3 is 15 million dollars per kilogram, which makes transport less of a concern and we haven't really even figured out how to use it yet., hypothetically, it is the only known element that can be used in a fusion reactor with little or NO radioactive waste.

    the only place we can get it is natural gas wells (it is extremely scarce, but sometimes found in very small quantities in wells), it happens to be relatively abundant on the moon.

    The race for the moon is really a race for clean nuclear energy, which is quite a prize.
  • AVOID?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Necron69 (35644) <> on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:22PM (#45746303)

    Why the HELL would you want to AVOID a scramble for Lunar resources? This is something to actively encourage, to get some permanent human settlements off this rock.

    Every man/country for themselves, and may the best and fastest effort win.


  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:38PM (#45746467) Homepage
    Let's think for a second. How is it that planets of different mass orbit the same sun? How can it be that nearby planets are small (Mercury), moderately distant planets are large (Jupiter), and distant planet[oid]s are small (Pluto)? How is it that asteroids orbit both near (asteroid belt) and far (kuiper belt)? There seems to be no consistent requirement for orbital distance as a function of orbital mass.

    Indeed! It turns out, if you were to make half of the moon's mass simply disappear, the moon's orbit wouldn't really change. See, the gravitational attraction between a planet and its moon is directly proportional to that moon's mass. Additionally, the momentum of the moon is proportional to that moon's mass as well. That means that when you vanish half of the moon, you halve both the force exerted on the moon by gravity but also the required force to adjust its momentum to keep it in orbit. That is, it all just works out.

    More important, though, is to remember the scale we're talking about. The moon really is quite large. Even if we mined a lot of water from it (there's really not that much to mine, as far as we know), an amount equal to all the water here on Earth, we'd be changing the moon's mass by 1.9%. The impact on terrestrial tides would be virtually immeasurable. An earlier post of mine [] examines this in more detail. The tidal acceleration we experience because of the moon is around 1.1E-7 g, which is quite small. In fact, the tidal acceleration we experience because of the sun is about 45% of that (0.52E-7 g). A 1.9% decrease in the moon's mass (an extreme worst-case scenario) would result in the moon's tidal acceleration being reduced to 1.08E-7 g, a change of 2.09E-9 g. Since apparent gravity varies up to 0.5% across different locations on the surface of the Earth, it's safe to say that even extreme mining of the moon won't have any measurable effect on Earth.
  • by jandrese (485) <> on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:53PM (#45746621) Homepage Journal
    It's hard to imagine a scenario where mining HE3 on the moon is more economically viable than wind/solar/hydro. Well, maybe for powering settlements on the moon itself, but there's a chicken and egg problem there. Right now there is little incentive to setup permanent habitation on the Moon, and the only reason people can think of is to mine HE3 that would primarily go towards powering said moon settlements.

    Maybe someday we'll need to build absolutely massive space structures and it will make sense to mine the moon for raw materials to save on launch costs (especially if you're using nuclear rockets that would be politically impossible on Earth), but humanity is nowhere near undertaking this kind of project, and I fully expect it to be a pipe dream for my entire lifetime.

Those who can, do; those who can't, simulate.