When you look up at the moon, you might be gob-smacked by its beauty, its wrinkled features, the way its silvery glow reflects off rooftops. You might be annoyed by the way it dominates the night sky. Or, if you’re like me, you might enjoy the moon as a quiet companion to your restless nocturnal mind.
When Naveen Jain looks at the moon, he thinks about money. Paraphrasing John F. Kennedy, he says we choose to go to the moon, “not because it is easy, but because it is great business.”
Last week, his company, Moon Express, became the first private entity to win federal permission to leave Earth orbit and shoot for the moon, something he hopes to do as early as next year.
“There are a tremendous amount of resources available on the moon, and beyond the moon, in space,” he says. “We fight over land, we fight over water, we fight over energy. And we never look up and say, ‘Holy cow, with the abundance of land, energy, water up there, what are we fighting about?’”
Though most of us picture the moon as a gray expanse of emptiness—“magnificent desolation,” as Buzz Aldrin called it—the past decade has brought a new moon into relief. The lunar surface is rich in rare material like helium-3, an isotope that could be used in nuclear fusion reactors. It is abundant with water, mostly frozen in deep craters whose surfaces have not seen the sun in billions of years. Those craters are ringed by thin Peaks of Eternal Light that almost always see the sun, thanks to the moon’s slight tilt. The mountaintops would be a convenient location to set up a continuously running solar power plant. Jain says the first moon miners could reap untold fortunes from these and other resources.