China has embarked on an ambitious space program – surpassing the United States in orbital launches last year (primarily for satellites), and now landing their own lunar rover on the dark side of the moon, the Chang’e 4.
The stated purpose of Beijing’s robotic lander is to collect samples and identify what minerals are there. And while the Chang’e 4 is unlikely to find precious metals such as gold, silver or platinum – there may be something up there that could serve as a “lunar fuel station to the stars,” as the South China Morning Post puts it; Helium-3
The primary material on the moon is helium-3, which for now is too expensive to haul back to Earth. In theory, the non-radioactive isotope could be used as fuel for the next generations of spacecraft to explore deeper into space.
Imagine driving from “NYC to LA without gas stations along the way”, said Peter Diamandis, the entrepreneur who founded the XPrize to encourage private spaceships. “If you can get the fuel from space, it reduces the cost.” –SCMP
What’s more, if China does find anything else of value on the far side of the moon, mining it would be far easier than an asteroid because of its gravity and proximity to Earth.