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Water found on the moon may spur more space exploration, lunar settlement and lunar mining  (Source: jyi.org)
Space entrepreneurs look to extract resources from the moon, but others are arguing that international laws need to be made first

Lunar geologists and space entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly intrigued by the concept of lunar mining now that researchers have discovered an abundance of water on the moon. But others are suggesting that many obstacles need to be overcome before such a project can be executed. 

The discovery of lunar water has raised questions as to whether other resources such as helium 2 and rare Earth elements could be found on the moon as well. Now, certain countries are looking to race to the moon.

Paul Spudis, Ph.D., a lunar geologist and Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, has expressed interest in lunar mining and has even devised a plan for returning to the moon despite the fact that the Obama administration has no plans to return to the moon at all due to its cancellation of the Constellation program. Spudis' plan involves "robotic resource extraction and the deployment of space-based fuel depots" using water from the moon before any humans return to its surface.

On the other hand, Mike Wall, editor of SPACE.com, believes lunar mining should not be attempted before ironing out a few technical and legal issues. For instance, an international agreement consisting of property rights, a salvage law and a mining law would be needed in order to decide who owns the resources once they are extracted. The Outer Space Treaty does not allow nation states to claim territories on the moon, but it does not mention anything regarding resource mining, and laws need to be set before any mining on the moon begins. 

To set these laws, several proposals have been submitted with viable ideas to set lunar mining in motion. One proposal, which was published in the SMU Journal of Air Law and Commerce, recommended that "space faring countries" should claim and defend a large portion of land around an established lunar settlement and sell the land to investors on Earth, which could fund the commercial venture. 

A second proposal suggested an international agreement to sell lunar land to investors in an effort to fund space exploration programs.  

China, Russia and India have expressed interest in resource development on the moon. 



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RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/18/2011 6:59:28 PM , Rating: -1
Unless they find Unobtainium below the surface of the moon, I can't think of one single business entity that would be stupid enough to think that you could return a profit from mining on an uninhabitable satellite.

It's not feasible, there is zero chance of ROI with current technology, it endangers the entire planet, and last but not least: we have so many problems that need to be fixed here before we "reach for the stars". What material on the moon would return a profit with a cost of untold billions. Hell, I'll even go as far as to say that a successful mining operation would cost a trillion or more. Advocates for mining on the moon have the burden of proof.

Side note: There are a lot of people here that seem to not be able separate science fiction from reality. Running away from problems here on earth doesn't fix anything; and anyone who thinks that we can find and establish a habitable planet/satellite elsewhere with current tech is loony at best.


RE: First come, first serve
By ClownPuncher on 1/18/2011 7:56:03 PM , Rating: 5
Science fiction becomes reality when people stop neutering their dreams. YOU stay here, just don't complain when I corner the market on green cheese.


RE: First come, first serve
By Alexvrb on 1/18/2011 8:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
Unobtainium is good, but I'd even settle for Adminium deposits.


RE: First come, first serve
By wired00 on 1/18/2011 9:52:43 PM , Rating: 2
I can't bring myself to install that O.O


RE: First come, first serve
By FishTankX on 1/19/2011 3:38:27 AM , Rating: 2
I could see one way for the moon to pay itself back is with satellite servicing/refueling operations based on the moon, with robotic mining of the regolith/ice caps to produce fuel for satellites orbiting the earth. Since it's insanely expensive to refuel a satellite due to the earth's gravity well, I imagine it might be somewhat more efficient to have a space fueling depot on the moon, where launch costs are bound to be a lot lower. You might be able to just use a large canon / rail launching system to shoot fuel packages back to earth.

I imagine if you sent a robotic expedition party to the moon and found a way to produce robots from the moon, and had a self replicating band of them, you could get enough to get a sizable enough workforce to create a fuel refinery.


RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/19/11, Rating: -1
RE: First come, first serve
By JKflipflop98 on 1/19/2011 11:53:36 AM , Rating: 5
Well if everyone were like you and immediately took the "nope! the whole thing is stupid blah blah blah" route, nothing would ever change.

Someday, you'll have to admit to yourself that you don't really know everything, and no one person could possibly predict the advancements that such an endeavor would bring.


RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/19/2011 12:09:48 PM , Rating: 1
Did you not read the entire comment thread? We went to the moon for a purpose in the 1960's. When we got there we found that that it is in fact not made out of cheese. My charge was that mining on the moon is not worth the dangers that it presents; better yet, allowing people to blast away as they please invites disaster. Furthermore, there is not one single thing that would make mining operations ECONOMICAL. Do you realize how much it costs just to send an unmanned craft into space? IF it doesn't explode on launch, and IF it isn't delayed X amount of time.

quote:
Someday, you'll have to admit to yourself that you don't really know everything, and no one person could possibly predict the advancements that such an endeavor would bring.


Are you serious? Go back and re-read everything that I have posted. You act like mining on the moon will prevent poverty, starvation, AIDS, and greed. No. I suspect they are looking for a huge source of (insert rare earth mineral/element). NASA has been responsible for many innovations, but they have done what the private sector could have done in less time, and with less money; so lets get real here.
quote:
It's time that we start saying: "Hey, we humans will never be all powerful or all knowing. Some things are better left alone."

I had to quote that again because it seems a few of you don't understand that money IS indeed an object. There are more important issues going on than the distractions of space exploration. You are taking the approach of "well, this planet is crap, so we might as well start looking for ways to leave. The next home we find, I promise we will treat better :) /sarcasm"

Scientific exploration is a wonderful thing, but don't let your schooling get in the way of your education. It is not currently feasible to undertake a project like this, and to contradict that is foolish and naive.


RE: First come, first serve
By maven81 on 1/19/2011 12:56:53 PM , Rating: 4
better yet, allowing people to blast away as they please invites disaster."

You do realize that the impact basins on the moon were created by asteroid impacts that at times blasted out 1,500,000 sq miles of area right? (Oceanus Procellarum). The kinetic energy involved is bigger then anything we can muster by whole magnitudes.

"Furthermore, there is not one single thing that would make mining operations ECONOMICAL."

This is based on a massive number of assumptions. Assumptions that the cost of operations will never drop, (along with the risk), that the value of whatever you mine doesn't increase (how do you know?), the list of your assumptions is vast!

"NASA has been responsible for many innovations, but they have done what the private sector could have done in less time, and with less money; so lets get real here."

What the hell are you talking about? First of all who do you think builds the hardware for NASA? Could they be... I don't know, private contractors? Boeing ring a bell? Or how about Lockheed? I suppose NASA uses NASA chips too right? Or could they be radiation hardened Intel chips? (hint, they are).
Not only that, but you obviously slept through the recent space X launch, which was significantly cheaper then what NASA could do. Now of course, Space X is building off of the work that's been done by others, including NASA, but we're talking about today, not the 60s.

"There are more important issues going on than the distractions of space exploration."

How is it a distraction?! In the US the budget of NASA is what, 1/2 of 1%? In other countries it's even less then that!


RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/19/2011 1:35:52 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
You do realize that the impact basins on the moon were created by asteroid impacts that at times blasted out 1,500,000 sq miles of area right?

And you do realize that those are SURFACE impacts? Totally different world with subterranean demos.

18 Billion dollars is not quite the "drop in the bucket" that you seem to think it is. The problem here is that the government has overstepped their powers as endowed by our founding documents. Tax money collected so a few men can play on the moon? I bed the founders of this nation would throw up at that thought. That kind of venture belongs in private industry with government oversight. And the ONLY oversight needs to be that no-one is putting anyone in danger.


RE: First come, first serve
By maven81 on 1/19/2011 6:05:44 PM , Rating: 4
"And you do realize that those are SURFACE impacts? Totally different world with subterranean demos."

Do you have any idea how deep some of those "surface" impacts are? For many of them, the depth is 20% of their diameter. Do the math! And you still don't seem to appreciate the amount of energy involved, which created massive faults and brought material from deep within up to the top. So guess what, that means you don't even have to dig very far.

"18 Billion dollars is not quite the "drop in the bucket" that you seem to think it is."

That's the budget for EVERYTHING that NASA does. Which guess what is not 100% manned spaceflight. It also includes R&D, and basic research, even Aeronautics, remember what the other A stands for? But here's the best part... NASA produces a solid return on the money put into it. Can you say that for say the NSA?! And besides, why in the world would you complain about 18+ billion spent on space when Trillions have been spent on fighting wars with questionable benefit. Why aren't you up in arms about that?


RE: First come, first serve
By maven81 on 1/19/2011 1:24:05 PM , Rating: 2
"If someone invents a machine that can economically supply oxygen to a base station on the moon, then I will be a little less weary."

http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090810/full/news.2...


RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/19/2011 1:46:05 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ferrying huge amounts of it to the Moon would be extremely expensive — perhaps costing as much as US$100 million per tonne


quote:
The process uses the oxides — also found in Moon rocks — as a cathode, together with an anode made of carbon. To get the current flowing through the system, the electrodes sit in an electrolyte solution of molten calcium chloride (CaCl2), a common salt with a melting point of almost 800 °C.


Uh... you call that a sensible solution? Come on now...


RE: First come, first serve
By maven81 on 1/19/2011 6:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
"Ferrying huge amounts of it to the Moon would be extremely expensive — perhaps costing as much as US$100 million per tonne"

That sentence was talking about how much it would cost if you shipped the oxygen from the earth to the moon instead of creating it there. You obviously suffer from reading comprehension.


RE: First come, first serve
By Quadrillity on 1/20/2011 12:20:15 PM , Rating: 2
No, I don't suffer from reading comprehension. My assumption was that anyone following our thread would have also read the article that you posted. In the article, it plainly points out how expensive current viable methods are.

What I was trying to point out is that there is no sensible solution to the fundamental problems yet. Keyword here is "yet".

quote:
the electrodes sit in an electrolyte solution of molten calcium chloride (CaCl2), a common salt with a melting point of almost 800 °C

I still stand firm in my opinion that this kind of "breakthrough" invention is little more than pre-postulate design. It is not at all practical. Your opinion may differ than mine, but so be it. It's safe to say that neither one of us are actually qualified to make definitive statements; Although I could be wrong if you are an electro-chemical engineer or something lol.


RE: First come, first serve
By JKflipflop98 on 1/19/2011 8:01:47 PM , Rating: 3
Way to cherry pick your quotes in order to make the material fit your ideal. Schmoe.


RE: First come, first serve
By mkrech on 1/20/2011 2:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously Quad, your killing me.

- No government funding, but not government restrictions either.
I bet we agree on this. So speculation as to ROI is unfounded at this time. Let more creative individuals persuade private venture capital. But don't complain if new billionaire are created.

- Human actions on the moon WILL NOT adversely affect earth.
The most likely reason to fund a private venture to the moon would be to harvest energy in some concentrated form to transport in some way to earth. Of all the foreseeable possibilities contained within the realm of physics, none can possibly produce anything that can interfere with the relationship between the moon and earth.


RE: First come, first serve
By Siki on 1/24/2011 8:31:51 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Human actions on the moon WILL NOT adversely affect earth.


Harvesting a large enough portion of the moon could destabilize its orbit. :P


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