Drilling has long been an integral part in expanding the US frontier. In the 1850s, it enabled the California Gold Rush and bought about the Texas oil boom in the mid-nineteenth century. The ability to extract valuable resources encouraged mass migration, as US citizens moved to seek their fortune from these resources. Now, the pursuit of new resources and usable lands has moved into space.
This week NASA announced that it has established a set of projects to study how to mine resources from the moon. The projects – aptly named Lunar Flashlight and Resource Prospector Mission – are due to commence in late 2017 and will assess the possibility of drilling resources from the moon to establish a sustainable outpost on the satellite.
The projects will first assess the locations of water on the moon. Then, NASA intends to design a model for how an outpost could be put on the moon, which will host the drills that will extract the water. The water will be used for both consumption and separating hydrogen and oxygen for the creation of rocket fuel. But NASA is not the only institution eyeing up the moon’s resources; a number of private enterprises – such as Moon Express and Shackleton Energy Co. – have set their sights on mining and using the moon’s water sources to create fuel.
This is exciting news and will undoubtedly be the next step in the hollowing out of the state. But why are we in PR excited? A project as large as trying to mine the moon for energy resources, and the establishment of an outpost, requires a huge public relations campaign to garner civilian support and taxpayer money. At the same time, it creates yet another new frontier for an energy industry so rapidly breaking with the conventional.