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Monday, August 01, 2011

Mining the Moon & Building New Worlds is Just Engineering Now

    An interesting article here about strip mining the Moon 
it costs US$25,000 per kilo to lift things into space on a shuttle. Thus, whatever is mined in space in the future, it will have to be in high-enough demand to subsidise the cost of launching it.
This is especially true for prospecting missions beyond the Moon. A mission to retrieve Helium-3 from Jupiter’s atmosphere, for example, would take ten years, and businesses will likely be reluctant to wait a decade for a return on such a pricy investment, says Genge.
Another potential lunar resource – water – could fuel these future missions into deep space. Orbital scans suggest there are at least a billion tonnes of water frozen on the Moon after impacting in craters of the Moon’s surface – usually in the darker areas where temperatures can be as low as 35 degrees Kelvin.
Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company has already begun operations aimed at mining the Moon within the next few years. 

The company’s plans for mining and refining operations would involve melting the ice and purifying the water, converting the water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen, and then condensing the gases into liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, all potential rocket fuels.
Shackleton CEO Dale Tietz says the water extracted would be used almost exclusively as rocket fuel to power operations both within Low Earth Orbit (LEO) – such as space tourism and the removal of space-debris – on the Moon, and further out into space.
  The article makes a big play of the deuterium which is there being useful for nuclear fusion, which is not something I would be much concerned about. We don't yet know how to do fusion reliably so concern for the fuel seems to be putting the cart before the horse. In any case solar power satellites, whose square miles of tinfoil could be built of lunar metal are something we do know how to do.

    The Moon does have 2 major advantages for mining, particularly strip mining - the best ores haven't already been taken and 1/6th gravity makes it easy to move vast quantities from underground and even into orbit. I previously wrote of how the almost unlimited material available there could create an almost unlimited number of space settlements.
   A relatively small human settlement doing the intricate work and repairing, with the bulldozers etc run remotely from people living on Earth could mine a truly humongous amount of ore. Whoever wins the Google Lunar X-Prize will have proven all that possible. The winner will almost certainly be very small but when you have created a living mouse, a living elephant is merely a matter of scaling up and when Space-X have their Heavy Lift ship in operation occupying the Moon will cost less than occupying Kosovo.

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Intrestingly SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rough price to GTO is about 10200 dollars to get an item to the Moon. Why is this intresting well over the Millenia the Moon has been hit by asteroids and as we know they can be very metal rich.

Current commodity prices are that Gold is going at $1630 and ounce and Platinum at $1795 an ounce. In short a vehicle flying to the Moon and launching back would make a gross profit of about $300 million a trip.

Obviously Gold has gone up and down but not so Platinum we are facing a serious shortage in this industrial metal.
Thanks - I hadn't thought of goinf to the Moon for asteroid gold - I did suggest going to the asteroids

All the heavy metals on Earth were orifinally asteroidal. Finding where asteroids landed on the Moon is obviously infinitely easier than on our weather beaten planet.
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