April 22, 2024

Odysseus's landing may lead to a gold rush on the moon

The first landing of a private space probe on an Earth satellite is a milestone in space travel. It highlights one question: Who owns the moon?

Raphael Shopesser/Media

After the successful landing of “Odysseus”, will mining be done soon on the moon?Image: Cornerstone

When an American space probe gently touched down on the moon's surface on Friday evening, a Swiss man may have been particularly happy. Intuitive Machines' success is also partly due to Thomas Zurbuchen. As a former NASA research director, Bernie is largely responsible for the change in strategy for the US space agency.

From now on, private companies must also explore the Moon and work with NASA. But landing attempts by three different companies failed and the strategy was questioned. Intuitive Machines is now responsible for the first private company landing on the moon—and the first American landing in more than fifty years.

The Odysseus lander was launched into orbit by a rocket from Elon Musk's SpaceX company. NASA needs private companies to implement its plan to return people to the Moon and build a permanent base there that will serve as a base camp for a Mars mission.

Such orders are a lucrative business for private companies. But they are not the only reason they are attracted to the moon. It is believed that important raw materials are located on the Earth's satellite. In addition to precious metals, which are important for the production of mobile phones, there are also rare earths and helium-3 gas, which could enable nuclear fusion (clean atomic energy) on a large scale and is extremely rare on Earth.

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With Odysseus' successful landing, one question must come to the fore: Who owns the moon? Can anyone who wants to do mining there? Is it like the Wild West: those prospectors who get there first get rich? Or will the species capable of leaving their planet find smarter, more just ways?

Of course, Thomas Zurbuchen has already thought about this. In an interview with this newspaper, he formulated two rules: First, you can carry out mining activities on the moon, but you cannot disturb others who want to do the same. Second, we need some kind of national park on the moon to preserve it for future generations.

Sounds like the start of a long discussion. (aargauerzeitung.ch)

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