It seems that if we had a lunar base going then we would be more likely to invent things that would improve space travel. It also seems that private industry is faster at developing these improvements than if we leave it to governments alone. So is there any commercially exploitable resources we know about on the moon that could be commercially viable as an industry?

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    $\begingroup$ 1. Get moon dust. 2. Sell moon dust to scientists for $100000 an ounce. 3. Profit! $\endgroup$ – Undo Sep 2 '13 at 14:15
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Could a spacecraft be made out of lunar materials? $\endgroup$ – JohnB Sep 2 '13 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ Location, sights and gravity. A lunar base would be a great tourist destination. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 4 '17 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ @SF - it is never going to be able to compete with a Disney world. In the event we develop the technology that would be able to handle the logistical issues involved with ferrying 25-50k people a day to the moon, I seriously doubt the boring old moon would be the prime destination $\endgroup$ – Chad Jan 4 '17 at 15:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Chad: Disney World will never have 1/6th Earth gravity. Plus 25k people times \$100 is the same income as 25 people times \$100k. You might think Moon boring - but I believe low gravity can be exploited in thousands of creative ways. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 4 '17 at 16:28

The moon's gravity well is deeper than most asteroids. Therefore, materials that can be found on both asteroids and the moon are probably not going to be cost competitive when sourced from the moon. However, there are some materials that might be on the moon that aren't on asteroids. Water and Helium isotopes come to mind. Also, the moon has a unique resource that other bodies don't: its relative position to the Earth. In particular, the far side of the moon is a very quiet place electromagnetically speaking.

  • $\begingroup$ The question is about a moon base. Does exploiting these resources require humans, or could it be automated? $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Aug 29 '16 at 23:28
  • $\begingroup$ @BenCrowell: It could be automated - and likely require an unmanned base. Although on-site repair/maintenance crew could be valuable. $\endgroup$ – SF. Jan 4 '17 at 7:42

By far the most abundant resource on the moon is Oxygen. It comprises a little less than 50% of all the material on the surface of the Moon, and some of it can be extracted reasonably easily. If large production facilities were built using local resources to produce Oxygen, the Oxygen could be used as 89% (by weight) of the fuel needed by rockets in orbit. Hydrogen, the other 11%, could easily be brought up from Earth in large volumes.

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    $\begingroup$ Lunar oxygen mining makes sense if there is some other economically viable activity that requires oxygen to be available in orbit -- but what is that other activity? And if that other activity exists, is it most economically accomplished by lifting oxygen out of the moon's gravity well, or is there somewhere else you can get the oxygen more easily? For example, if you want oxygen as fuel to send humans to and from Mars (and assuming there is some economically viable reason to go to Mars), why not get the oxygen on the Martian surface? $\endgroup$ – Ben Crowell Aug 29 '16 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ If liquid hydrogen is brought from the earth to the moon for later use, there will be a lot of boil-off loss. But hydrogen may be produced on moon by electrolysis if a large deposit of water ice is found near the moon poles. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jan 10 '17 at 9:34

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