It also bodes ill for the prospect of fusion using helium-3, a rare helium isotope that is missing a neutron. Physicists have yet to achieve pure helium-3 fusion, but if they did, we'd have a clean, virtually infinite power source. Or so the theory goes.
And that's where the moon comes in. The moon's lunar soil is chock-full of helium reserves, thanks to the solar wind. In fact, every star emits helium constantly, suggesting that one day, spaceships will carry on a brisk import and export trade to harvest this critical element - assuming we can figure out how to make such a process economically viable.
But helium-3 isn't the only resource the moon might have to offer. It could also be a source for rare earth elements, such as europium and tantalum, which are in high demand on Earth for electronics and green energy applications (solar panels, hybrid cars), as well as being used in the space and defense industries.
China is the largest exporter of rare earth elements, but there are growing concerns over supply vulnerability as China drastically reduces its rare earth exports. Scientists know that there are pockets or rare earth deposits on the moon, but as yet they don't have detailed maps of those areas. Potassium, phosphorus and thorium are other elements that lunar rocks have to offer a potential mining venture.
And there's more! In 2009, NASA bombed the moon - part of its Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) mission - and observed grains of water ice in the remnants of the resulting plume, as well as light metals such as sodium and mercury, and volatile compounds like methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This implies that the moon is chemically active - via a process called "cold grain chemistry" - and also has a water cycle. Where you have water ice, you have a potential mother lode for lunar prospecting of hydrogen.
Of course, we're talking about huge capital expenditures just to set up a mining base camp on the moon, and the economies of scale might not be there. If the benefits don't outweigh the costs, we might never see bona fide lunar prospecting. But it's a possibility that the US - not to mention China - is taking very seriously.
Image credit: NASA