I have seen on TV a few pieces about the founders of Google and film makers James Cameron investing in a project that aims to mine the moon. Most TV programs have simply said that the project hopes to find gold and other precious metals. Similarly the techy blogs I read also point to this mining of the moon for precious metals.
To me though it never added up, why would some of the richest people in the world suddenly want to change tack and become ore miners on another planet. It simply doesn’t reflect the type of people these genius’ are. Similarly they probably already puke more money a day then most people make in a year.
Given that most tech companies are trying to become more environmentally friendly, and philantropy is reasonably well established in the industry. Like Bill Gates global fight against milaria. Tearing up the moon for some gold is a somewhat short sighted aim, that most media channels seem to think of as the only reason to mine the moon.
From a reasonably quick search of the internet we have brought back around 300kg from the moon, mainly by the 6 successful NASA apollo missions, although the Russians have also managed to bring back couple of hundred ‘grams’! So to certain extent we know that bringing rock back is possible.
It still doesn’t answer the question of why bring it back at all. If it was gold for instance there is a great fact or urban myth? That ton for ton there is more gold and precious metals in disgarded mobile phones and other electronic equipment that what we can find by digging up the raw ore. So surely refining/recycling these would be a better idea.
However there is one thing that moon rocks have that the earth does not. Protected by our atmosphere, the earth is inpregnable to an isotope of Helium called Helium-3. As such helium-3 is extremely rare on planet earth, but the lack of atmosphere means that many scientists beleive that there is an abundance of this Helium-3 in the surface layer of the moon, due to its build up over billions of years.
Why then are the worlds richest people wanting to get hold of Helium-3? Helium-3 is sort after for the research of nuclear fusion. As such it could be the new energy source. Yeilding much more energy than the nuclear fission we currently use, and potentially having fewer side effects like a legacy of nuclear waste that will haunt us for years to come.
My guess is that these rich guys aren’t trying to get richer, but use their wealth to fund a programme to attempt to make fusion possible. I am sure if it works they’ll also become even richer, but for now the money they are pumping into this embryonic project in a hope that they can help move us on from a reliance on fossil fuels.
In the words of a Ford car executive, ‘The stone age didn’t end because they ran out of stones!’
Oh, and sorry for the geeky nature and the only apparent link to climbing being ‘moon rocks’!