Upcoming exploration of the Moon is a highlight for space lovers. However, not everything about these upcoming missions has astronomers excited. In fact, some have even warned that the Moon’s resources could be at risk if we don’t control our exploitation of the minerals and other resources found on the lunar surface.
There are several dozens of probes set to survey the lunar surface over the next few years, as well as manned missions to the surface that will see astronauts setting foot on the lunar surface for the first time since Apollo.
While the idea of exploring the Moon is exciting, some astronomers believe that thoughtlessly exploiting the Moon’s resources could cause them to be destroyed, when it doesn’t need to happen that way. The concern here is that an unrestricted rush to the Moon could see businesses and others exploiting the precious minerals and resources found on the Moon.
Further, the thoughtless exploitation of these resources could put other important research at risk, including black hole observations, research into gravitational waves, and even studies to determine the possibility of alien life on distant worlds.
“The issue has become urgent,” Martin Elvis, who works with the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, told The Observer. Elvis says that we need to act now because the decisions that we make today will set the tone for any future behavior regarding the Moon.
The concerns that we might over-exploit the Moon’s resources are valid, too. Here on our own planet, we’ve already exploited many of the most precious resources to dangerous levels. While the Moon will open up new areas of resources, we need to be careful about how we harvest them. Otherwise, we could jeopardize all of our future plans for the Moon.
NASA and other agencies plan to scour the surface of the Moon using controlled rovers and other machines, which some scientists warn could ruin the sensitivity of proposed radio telescopes designed to teach us more about the universe.
This is, of course, a very nuanced issue, and there’s no easy answer. Still, this warning is very important for NASA and others to take into account, as exploiting the Moon’s resources and ruining possible research opportunities could set out scientific goals back exponentially.