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The Moon has scant resources which can be used on Earth, but there are resources there which can be used for construction on the lunar satellite. For example, beneath the surface of the Moon are water and iron elements, which could be used for construction and to help colonise it.

By mining these resources on the Moon, it would save potentially billions of pounds which it would cost in rocket fuel to transport them to the Moon.

However, there are currently a lack of international policies and agreements as to who owns what and to what countries, space agencies and private companies are entitled to.

Scientists from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have now written a paper claiming the lack of policy could lead to great tension and potentially even war.

Martin Elvis, astronomer and the lead author on the paper, which has been published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, said: “A lot of people think of space as a place of peace and harmony between nations.

“The problem is there’s no law to regulate who gets to use the resources, and there are a significant number of space agencies and others in the private sector that aim to land on the moon within the next five years.

“We looked at all the maps of the Moon we could find and found that not very many places had resources of interest, and those that did were very small.

“That creates a lot of room for conflict over certain resources.”

There are some treaties in place, but they do not mention the protection of celestial bodies from private companies.

For example, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty declares: “The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all states parties to the treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes”.

The United States insisted on a clause in the contract stating private firms can explore space as they “require authorisation and continuing supervision” of the government.

Alanna Krolikowski, assistant professor of science and technology policy at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and a co-author on the paper said in a statement: “The biggest problem is that everyone is targeting the same sites and resources: states, private companies, everyone.

“But they are limited sites and resources. We don’t have a second moon to move on to. This is all we have to work with.

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“While a comprehensive international legal regime to manage space resources remains a distant prospect, important conceptual foundations already exist and we can start implementing, or at least deliberating, concrete, local measures to address anticipated problems at specific sites today.”

Laws which exist on Earth, which protect mass resources like the oceans, for example, could be applied in a similar way, the new report stated.

Ms Krolikowski continued: “Are these resources, say, areas of real estate at the high-value Peaks of Eternal Light, where the sun shines almost continuously, or are they units of energy to be generated from solar panels installed there?

“At what level can they can realistically be exploited? How should the benefits from those activities be distributed?

“Developing agreement on those questions is a likely precondition to the successful coordination of activities at these uniquely attractive lunar sites.”

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