thought this was interesting, given the fact that the last flight of the space shuttle is occurring as I write this:
From the sounds of the article one would think that the Moon was to be mined primarily for its large quantities of helium-3. Let's add into that equation tons of heavy metals and....possible artifacts. I mention this because the article points out a fact known to people following space matters, and that is the long-term corporatization of space, as corporations take over more and more of the actual nuts and bolts of space exploration and utilization.
And that raises all sorts of legal issues, for the Moon is protected by international treaty; technically, it does not belong to any particular nation, nor can it, and perhaps that was by deliberate design, for corporations are another matter, and deeper underneath these issues are the military ones:
"There’s a lot of military subtext to everything that happens in outer space,’ says Stuart. ‘Essentially, being able to launch something into outer space demonstrates long-range missile capabilities.’
"‘So much of what’s up there is private – satellites and that sort of thing – but the international community continues to sort of insist that these objects be tied to a state,’ says Stuart.
"Stuart noted several ways a government could regulate the private space industry. Objects launched into space from US territory, for example, have to be registered as an export. Also, governments can control access to space through their ownership of most launch pads.
"‘The thing is, any country that has launch capabilities is the type of country that would have a strong enough government to continue to assert that authority,’ continues Stuart."
The Chinese are not being so coy: "In 2002, CLEP chief scientist Ouyang Ziyuan said: ‘Our long-term goal is to set up a base on the moon and mine its riches for the benefit of humanity.’"
Such statements turn back the memory clock for me, for I well remember such confident predictions being made in the early 1960s, accompanied by cute NASA videos of Moon bases, and manned trips to Mars, by the century's end. And that raises to my mind the biggest thing yet to be mined about the Moon: its possible anomalies, and the biggest anomaly of them all: why we - the USA - really abandoned the Moon program, and never went back except with the Pentagon's Clementine Probe which was to photograph and map the entire surface of the Moon, and then later of course, with the mysterious LCROSS mission which slammed into the south polar Lunar surface, kicking up...well let's just say, kicking up all sorts of odd anomalous dust.
So back to that 1984 Moon treaty which, suggestibly enough, neither the USA nor (at that time) the USSR ratified, a curious phenomenon since at that time they were the only countries with a real knowledge of what was actually up there. Clearly, they were hedging their bets. Now, suddenly, everyone - including Russia - has expressed an interest in going back to the Moon with manned missions; everyone except the USA, an indicator that Selene is playing an unusual if hidden role in earthly geopolitics.
The long and short of it is that I strongly suspect that this subtle Selene geopolitics will eventually reveal important clues to this lingering mystery of the space race to the Moon, and why it was suddenly and inexplicably stopped by the only nation actually to make it there with manned missions.