Yes, there is gold on the Moon.
This was determined to be the case through the six Apollo missions by analyzing samples of Moon rock brought back to Earth.
In this article, we’ll explore the quantity of lunar gold, other precious metals, any other celestial bodies in the solar system worth considering, as well as if it’s worth the money and effort to mine our closest solar neighbor for precious shiny metals.
How Much Gold Is On The Moon? (EXPLAINED)
The total amount of gold on the Moon is a bit uncertain, as we have not yet initiated mining operations there.
NASA scientists speculate though that there’s a significant amount underneath its surface, which may have been delivered by several asteroids in the ancient past.
The impacts would have forced any gold deep beneath the Moon’s surface.
However, it’s also speculated that there is far less gold on the Moon than on Earth, considering the size differences between the two.
To give us an estimate, Earth has had 244,000 metric tons of gold discovered so far.
Even more is speculated to be underneath the Earth’s crust.
In comparison, the Moon could have way less than that.
If we were to melt down every single bit of gold that we know of into one object, it would produce a cube 28 meters wide on each side.
Aside from gold, Moon rock samples have shown to have traces of platinum, iron, magnesium and titanium.
However, most of these precious metals were found to be deeper inside the Moon’s surface, meaning we’ll have to mine deep to reach significant deposits of these materials.
To get a little more technical, there are 4 known common minerals that make up around 98% of the Lunar exterior.
They are pyroxene, olivine, ilmenite, and plagioclase feldspar.
Each of these minerals contains some levels of either iron, magnesium, or even aluminum.
The other 2% consist of feldspar, clinopyroxene, anorthite, and orthopyroxene.
While deep lunar mining seems to be the best way to obtain the more precious metals, we shouldn’t ignore the potential of mining the Moon’s exterior either.
However, the Moon isn’t the only place scientists and aspiring entrepreneurs are looking at in the solar system.
It’s been speculated that Mars might also be rich in gold and other precious metals, due to its proximity to the asteroid belt, making the planet much more likely to accumulate rare materials over its long history.
Considering how much gold has already been mined on Earth, with Mars untouched by human hands thus far, there could be a massive amount of profit to be made if mining on Mars becomes possible one day.
However, it may not be worth aiming for the Red Planet and its shiny treasures.
The Moon is far closer to Earth, has much less gravity than Mars, and therefore, much less costly to transport people, mining machinery, and anything else needed to make mining precious metals from our solar system possible.
Mining on Mars would also be met by fierce competition by future space companies collecting asteroids, where significant deposits of gold and platinum can be obtained for a fraction of the cost in comparison to any operation on the Red Planet.
With less gravity to work with, a mining company could set up a Cislunar transportation system on the Moon to transport any precious metals toward the Earth without the need for expensive rocket technology.
The system would be composed of a giant space tether that would capture the mined materials and launch them to Earth using the Moon’s gravity for momentum.
This would be done via the Oberth effect, a technique using a planet’s gravity well to gain additional speed, which NASA scientists have taken advantage of to accelerate the trajectory of space probes and astronauts.
At the moment, it’s much more cost-efficient to mine precious metals here on Earth rather than anywhere else.
With any resource in space, we first have to get our equipment up there to retrieve it, and then send it back without going bankrupt.
Transportation is by far the largest and most expensive hurdle before mining in space becomes a reality.
There is also the obstacle of which kinds of organizations will get to mine the Moon.
After the signing of the Outer Space Treaty by over 100 nations in 1967, no country is legally allowed to claim ownership of any planetary body in the solar system.
This is troublesome, as the most likely operations to first get to the Moon will be sponsored by governments, not private industry.
However, whereas no nation may own a planetary body, the treaty said nothing about not being allowed to extract resources or even build bases on the Moon itself.
The treaty also mentions nothing about private ownership of those resources, which could pave the way for industries all over the world to get a slice of Moon pie.
A third obstacle to consider is the additional side effects lunar mining could cause.
The Moon has been an integral part of human history and culture.
No one wants to see ugly holes and scars when looking up at the Moon at night.
However, this factor has been taken into careful consideration by NASA and other world leaders.
Any such mining operations would be done in areas such as the dark side of the Moon or underneath the surface itself, keeping the beautiful surface intact for all of humanity to enjoy for millennia to come.
Even if we were to extract 1 million metric tons of Moon rock per day, it would still take 220 million years to deplete even 1% of the overall Moon’s 73 quadrillion tons of mass.
Neither its orbit nor tidal forces on Earth would be affected.
The possibility of mining the Moon will depend on advances in technology, such as re-usable rockets, mining robotics, 3D printing, or even developing more cost-efficient fuels.
Once we get all the necessary equipment there, however, we could use the Moon’s own resources to manufacture breathable oxygen, potable water for either drinking or growing plants, and use raw moon materials for building new machinery or replacement parts.
The current hurdles for mining Moon gold will be astronomical in the literal sense, but with enough time and innovation, Moon mining could become a prominent sector in our budding solar economy.