10 Reasons Why Space Exploration Matters to You

We Need Raw Materials From Space
The Nili Fossae region of Mars is one of the largest exposures of clay minerals discovered by the OMEGA spectrometer on the Mars Express mission. Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images

There's gold out there in the cosmos, and silver, platinum and other valuable substances, too [source: McKie]. A lot of attention has been given to a private-sector venture that envisions mining operations on asteroids, but space miners wouldn't have to go that far to find riches.

The moon, for example, is a potentially lucrative source of helium-3 (used for certain MRIs and a possible fuel for nuclear power plants), whose increasing rarity on Earth has jacked up its price to $5,000 a liter. The moon also is believed to be a potential source of rare earth elements such as europium and tantalium, which are in high demand for use in electronics, solar panels and other advanced gadgetry [source: Ouellette].