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A 'research station' on the 'peaks of eternal light' would prevent anyone else from approaching. A Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics senior astrophysicist, Martin Elvis, has sounded the alarm of how an unfriendly power – the Chinese for example – could seize control of an important piece of lunar real estate. They could do it legally by exploiting provisions of the Outer Space Treaty, that bars any nation — and by extension, corporation — from owning property on a celestial body, but a loophole in the pact may amount to the same thing, warns Elvis.

The real estate in question are the so-called “peaks of eternal light” that lay around permanently shadowed craters at the Lunar South Pole. Unlike the Earth, which is tilted so the poles are in six months of darkness and six months of light, the moon is almost perfectly aligned with its orbit around the sun. Because of the way the moon tilts, these peaks are bathed in sunlight for most if not all of the time, which means you can have an almost continuous power supply, ideal for a photovoltaic power station. Thus this part of the moon would be perfect places to erect solar power stations that would support mining operations in the nearby craters, where water and other valuable resources such as Helium 3 have been deposited over billions of years.


Elvis says that provisions in the treaty allow nations to exploit resources, including through establishing research stations, and bar others from disrupting such endeavors. In some cases, this could amount to de facto ownership, Elvis said. As China and Japan plan moon landings, and corporate leaders eye their own space ventures, the loophole has gained in importance.

Not only are China and Japan planning a series of missions to the moon, China just announced that one of its missions would land at the south pole somewhere. There are also private companies, stimulated by the Google Lunar X Prize. And there are two teams that have rocket flights booked for 2017, an Israeli team and Moon Express, a U.S. company. And they seem to be looking at being able to send a lander to the moon for $50 million, which is very cheap by space standards. So this makes it a very urgent issue.



People will soon want to start putting power stations on these Peaks of Eternal Light and use them for exploiting the resources. What we pointed out is that a very simple experiment, similar to the one that the Chinese have already landed on the near side of the moon, [could serve to limit access to others]. You land on one end of the ridge and a little rover goes off, trailing a little copper wire behind it. It trundles off to the other end of the ridge, and that would then form a radio telescope to explore the Cosmos.

During the 40th Anniversary Commemoration Event for Apollo 17, moonwalker and NASA retired astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt said "one of the most significant contributions of the Apollo Missions was confirming the presence of Helium-3 on the moon."

Helium-3 (He-3) is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Its presence is rare on Earth, it is sought after for use in nuclear fusion research, and it is abundant in the moon's soil by at least 13 parts per billion (ppb) by weight.

In 2007, shortly after Russia claimed a vast portion of the Arctic sea floor, accelerating an international race for the natural resources as global warming opens polar access, China announced plans to map "every inch" of the surface of the Moon and exploit the vast quantities of Helium-3 thought to lie buried in lunar rocks as part of its ambitious space-exploration program.

Ouyang Ziyuan, head of the first phase of lunar exploration, was quoted on government-sanctioned news site ChinaNews.com describing plans to collect three dimensional images of the Moon for future mining of Helium 3: "There are altogether 15 tons of helium-3 on Earth, while on the Moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach one to five million tons."

"Helium-3 is considered as a long-term, stable, safe, clean and cheap material for human beings to get nuclear energy through controllable nuclear fusion experiments," Ziyuan added. "If we human beings can finally use such energy material to generate electricity, then China might need 10 tons of helium-3 every year and in the world, about 100 tons of helium-3 will be needed every year."

Helium 3 fusion energy - classic Buck Rogers propulsion system- may be the key to future space exploration and settlement, requiring less radioactive shielding, lightening the load. Scientists estimate there are about one million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years. The equivalent of a single space shuttle load or roughly 25 tons could supply the entire United States' energy needs for a year.

Thermonuclear reactors capable of processing Helium-3 would have to be built, along with major transport system to get various equipment to the Moon to process huge amounts of lunar soil and get the minerals back to Earth. The harvesting of Helium-3 on the could start by 2025. Our lunar mining could be but a jumping off point for Helium 3 extraction from the atmospheres of our Solar System gas giants, Saturn and Jupiter.

UN Treaties in place state that the moon and its minerals are the common heritage of mankind, so the quest to use Helium-3 as an energy source would likely demand joint international co-operation. Hopefully, exploitation of the moon's resources will be viewed as a solution for thw world, rather than an out-moded nation-state solution.

The Daily Galaxy via The Harvard Gazette

Image credit: top of page South Pole ichef.bbci.co.uk



Duh huh the freaking US would have to have the capability to travel to the Moon first. Oh you say the USA has been to the Moon! That was then this is now.

Terra and Luna are symbiotic. Mining Luna will have immeasurable results on Terra. Any change of the density of Luna will change tides and shift tectonic plates. There are more profitable and safe ventures on Titan and Europa and on all the asteroids on the way there.

Oil and gas interests will keep America out of the loop. There is a unlimited wealth waiting in space how noble that America has left it for all other peoples of the world so America can take its rightfull place as a post first world economy.

A made in China war ???

Roger the helium 3 is contained in a very thin layer in the surface dust say a few mm (ask an expert) perhaps. The He3 is from the solar wind and it exists in a thin layer on the surface. It not a crazy thing like oil gas or coal. There will be no measurable change in the mass or density of the moon.

Couple thousand red chinese "leaders" go there grow food, kids, colony etc. then would they nuke us???

First, the Spratlys; then Scarborough Shoal; next: The Moon. Perfect time to enroll for Mandarin lessons and know how to welcome our Chinese overlords.

"Terra and Luna are symbiotic. Mining Luna will have immeasurable results on Terra. Any change of the density of Luna will change tides and shift tectonic plates"
Not really. Many tons of material are deposited on both the moon and earth every day by space dust with no obvious change.
As to china using a treaty to do what they want. They do that anyway here on earth without legal consequences. As always he who can does.
As to mining the moon for H3 - total bs

The truth


Yes I think both commercial and States, and many countries need to be working together. Not sure that Helium 3 will be of any value. So far we don't have a fusion reactor that can use it and quite possibly we never will - some experts have said that they don't think it will work very well for fusion. But there are many other potential resources there that may be useful.

Whatever our future, we don't want to divide the Moon up like that by country or by company either, so that one country or block has one part, and another has another.

If a country could do this, so could a company. E.g. Bigelow set up a radio line like that and then surprise everyone by turning around and saying that therefore that peak of eternal light is a Bigelow experiment and everyone else needs to ask them permission to land there. Or even, say, SpaceIL claims it for Israel, or the team for India claims it for India or the Japanese one for Japan etc, it would be within the possibility of one of the robotic lunar landers to do this too, not necessary to be a big space power not in the very near future..

What's going to happen commercially I don't know but don't think it should be the solution that one company can grab a peak of eternal light and e.g. it's only for say Shell or Mobil or whatever to use, and everyone else goes to another one, or a different cave or whatever. And certainly just laying out a line like that can't be allowed as a way to claim part of the Moon. How that's going to work legally I don't know, though there are ideas for how it could be possible. The OST itself doesn't establish a safety zone around habitats or anything like that - that's a convention that has arisen since then, for instance the ISS safety zone. Not sure what it's legal status is. It could be a basis for adding extra legislation - not changing the OST, but more agreements consistent with it - but until we have the legislation I think we can't really say what will and will not be permitted under it.

With the ESA village idea, then everyone is in one spot which is also safer and they can get each other out of trouble etc. And China say they are keen on joining in with international endeavours with the US. I think it's our chance to rise above these sorts of things, in space even if we can't on Earth.

This article's interpretation on Space Law appears to be entirely mistaken. There is no reference to any exclusive zone around a base on the Moon or other similar installation referred to in the Outer Space Treaty. Sorry, but the author appears to be in error rather fundamentally here.

One may keep what one can defend - first and only rule of law and lawlessness combined.

If China puts a permanent settlement there before we do, we've already lost. And it'll make no difference.

China is *nowhere* near building or maintaining a permanent moon base.

As Roger told us "Terra and Luna are symbiotic. Mining Luna will have immeasurable results on Terra. Any change of the density of Luna will change tides and shift tectonic plates".

I don't know if exploiting helium3 will have any consequences on the density of the moon but once we’ll be installed on the moon, it’s sure we’ll try maximizing our profit and exploit everything we can. I can expect that changing the density of the moon could have impact on the earth. Now It’s sure we have some marge before it occurs. However, when industries start exploiting some resources and its production impact our day to day life, we know how difficult it is for us to go backward and change our habits again. Let’s make it better than we’ve done it on earth up to now.

It doesn’t mean we can’t do anything. It’s only by getting risks that our civilization has gone forward. But it teach us we should make things wisely, carefully an in a controlled way. It looks wise that an international organism measure and control how resources of the moon are used.

For example, if we extract the resources of the moon in one way and bring them back to earth, we could bring other stuffs we want to get rid of back to the moon ensuring we keep balance. But to keep this balance we need to measure and control how things occur at a global view.

I think the writer of the article has ignored article 11 of the Outer Space Treaty

Article XII
All stations, installations, equipment and space vehicles on the Moon and other
celestial bodies shall be open to representatives of other States Parties to the Treaty
on a basis of reciprocity. Such representatives shall give reasonable advance notice
of a projected visit, in order that appropriate consultations may be held and that
maximum precautions may be taken to assure safety and to avoid interference with
normal operations in the facility to be visited.

The Treaty would undoubtedly be challenged in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, and China's claims would only hold up if the Justices said so. Already there are claims and counter-claims to broad sections of the Arctic Ocean seabed, and they are all of vary "dubious" legality under established international law. Russia, for instance, thinks that just dropping a flag on the seabed somehow makes it theirs. It is fact that these claims will end up in the International Court of Justice (and legal experts believe non of them will "hold water" (pardon the pun) -- any more than the various claims of sovereignty of parts of the Antarctic continent have been upheld. Besides, if the Red Chinese try pulling that "stunt", we could in turn claim vast areas of the Moon for ourselves, based on our setting foot on it and planting our flag on that soil -- which traditionally under international law is a far stronger claim. Besides, our is the superior claim in terms of date, as well. So to hell with the Red Chinese. They ain't "taking over" any part of that Moon.

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