How should we regulate the firms planning to mine and sell moon rocks?

Several companies are making plans to mine and sell lunar resources, like rock and water ice. Now the race is on to agree a legal framework that is fair for everyone

Space 13 September 2022

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Companies are hoping to make a mint from mining lunar resources

Nasa/Ryan Wills

BILL NELSON, the administrator of NASA, grinned for the cameras as he handed over a cheque to Justin Cyrus, the boss of a company called Lunar Outpost. The amount? A mere 10 cents. This moment last year was partly a marketing gimmick. But in its own strange way, it was also a legitimately important milestone: it marked the first time that a government agency – or anyone else for that matter – had signed a deal to buy natural resources in space.

If all goes to plan, later this year Lunar Outpost will use a rover to scoop up some lunar dust, snap a photo of it, and officially transfer ownership of the material to NASA. In return, the agency will pay a further fee, this time 90 cents to make a round dollar.

The sums may be small, but this is the start of a new era for humanity, one in which the buying and selling of resources will extend beyond our home planet for the first time. And though Lunar Outpost looks set to be one of the first companies making money on the moon, it will be quickly followed by others. US plans to return people to the lunar surface rely heavily on partnering with companies.

This article is part of a special package in which we explore:

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