Our solar system is full of critical raw materials. Asteroids such as Ryugu or Davida have mineral resources worth about $27 quintillion (Statista, 2019). Their exploitation could mean a sustainable solution for mankind and the end of dependence on the resources on Earth.  The United States and Luxembourg have begun to create a legislative framework for the exploration and commercial use of the moon’s resources and the so-called celestial bodies.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in mining resources found on the moon and asteroids, driven by the Earth’s questionable capacity to meet future needs (Dallas et al., 2019). This interest represents a unique opportunity for the development of a new economy that allows not only the sustainable exploitation of mineral resources or critical raw materials found on the moon’s surface and asteroids near Earth but also as a prelude to the technological development that is needed for the deep exploration of space and in preparation for future manned missions to Mars.

Lunar exploration will probably play a key role in the development of a new space economy for many reasons, but especially because Earth’s distance from the moon remains constant compared to that of asteroids. Also, higher gravity on the moon could be beneficial for some extraction or manufacturing processes. In terms of resources, the moon has abundant mineral resources that could be refined as well as it is currently done on Earth. Other resources such as helium 3+, rare earth elements and billions of tons of water ice can be found in lunar soil and its extraction would have less uncertainty than, for instance, Mars water extraction missions. (Saydam, et al., 2015).

Considering the five years up to 2025, there are several factors that greatly affect the development of space mining. These factors vary: for instance, the potential conflicts between international regulations, different political interests, security reasons, environmental, ethical, strategic, technological or simply economic factors.

From the ethical and opportunity standpoints, it seems there is a worldwide consensus that space mining could represent an opportunity that would contribute to the development of all mankind. There could be discrepancies, regarding the ethics of limited access with technological advances.

In principle, access to space mining would be reserved for a handful of developed countries, leaving out the poorest or developing countries.

It is obvious that space mining offers considerable benefits to future generations, not only as a potential source of critical raw materials and high-value mineral resources but also as a palatable facilitator for boosting and developing the new space economy, contributing to the economic and social development of future generations (Dallas et al., 2019). Though in-space utilization of asteroids seems to be actively proceeding, it is necessary to reinforce research and innovation in space mining to secure that safety and the sustainable exploitation of space resources are guaranteed. In this endeavour, international cooperation will be key and most important. Due to the extremely complex nature of the mission, it should be universal and not undertaken by only a small group of countries or enterprises.

 It’s critical that we pay attention and are extremely careful in assuring that the space-mining industry and resources are used to guarantee the future development of mankind. Last, but not least, we should be mindful not to export the mining aversion from Earth to space, and converting space waste is the next environmental threat for humans, perhaps after climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.


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