PUBLISHED: 13:48, Thu, Oct 29, 2020 | UPDATED: 13:49, Thu, Oct 29, 2020
Under the Artemis programme, two astronauts will land at the lunar south pole by 2024, with NASA's new discovery of pockets of water bolstering the opportunity to establish a permanent base. Meanwhile, evidence that the Moon may be rich in metals such as iron and titanium was uncovered using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, fuelling concerns for a “gold rush” on the Moon. US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to encourage companies to mine the Moon for resources, provided that partners participate in an “innovative and sustainable” programme to return humans to the celestial body for long-term exploration and utilisation.
It effectively ended decades of ambiguity regarding commercial activities in space, which were technically not addressed by the Outer Space or Moon treaties drafted during the Cold War.
Experts have warned that this could potentially pave the way for mining activities off Earth, but University of Leicester’s Dr Bleddyn Bowen says it is not a problem to worry about just yet.
He told Express.co.uk “The US is doing very interesting work with trying to set certain precedents in how to use resources that are found during expeditions.
“The potential implications for that are big if it has any economic or military potential – it doesn’t right now, and we don’t know if it’s possible yet.
NASA's plan for Moon has been exposed (Image: GETTY)
Water was found on the Moon by NASA (Image: NASA)
“It’s one of the areas that people are thinking about rules and laws far in advance of the technology and the political will to make it a relevant concern.
“The concern is so far down the road that getting anything meaningful isn’t really a political concern right now.”
Dr Bowen, who is an expert in space warfare, space policy, and international relations in the cosmos, says we are likely to see the first stages of this in Moon rocks being brought back to Earth, similar to the Apollo Project.
He added: “Sample return is different from extracting