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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 delphinus100 on 1/18/2011 8:02:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm putting the cart before the horse but... From a military standpoint, the moon is a valuable staging point for any attacks on the Earth (or an Earth nation)...


Hmm..it's 2-3 days before anything launched from there could get here. Strategic bombers? Hours.ICBMs? about 30 minutes to target. SLBMs? Less.

About the only military value I can remotely see here, are communication relays that could be very hard. That's about all.

quote:
...and a launching point for interplanetary exploration.


Why? That's what Low Earth Orbit is for. What's the value of leaving Earth, descending into yet another gravity well, to launch a ship* that's going to a whole other location?

(* Please don't tell me the ship was built there...you aren't going to set up not only a mining but a manufacturing infrastructure on the Moon, just to produce a handful of spacecraft. Oh, and your crew must still come from Earth.)


RE: First come, first serve
By tech4tac on 1/19/2011 2:02:27 AM , Rating: 2
The Moon has a big enough surface area to house refueling stations, restocking supply stations, living quarters, etc. with room to expand. A LEO space station big enough to do the same would be obliterated by a constant bombarded of space debris (the Moon would at least afford some protection and stability). Being able to refuel on the Moon also means that interplanetary travel from Earth doesn't require that you carry everything at once (or the extra fuel to transport all that stuff). For travelers returning to Earth, it could also act as a gateway.

If you have to building/maintaining a space craft manufacturing/repairing station on the Moon for cargo transport anyways, why not also use it to construct interplanetary spacecraft. Long-term, your gonna want to do more than just mine on the Moon. A station on the Moon will provide a large, stable platform for construction and materials can be harvested and/or manufactured locally. The moons gravity is only 1/6 that of the Earth. With the same thrust technology, you could launch larger interplanetary craft from the Moon. An orbiting Moon dock might be even better but not a LEO station. Moon to Earth transport would still use smaller craft designed and optimized for that purpose.

Yes, obviously your crew would still come from Earth but transporting a few thousand pounds of personnel isn't gonna cost much relative to the thousands of tons of minerals. Personnel can ride with the transport ships on the round trips. Space agencies such as NASA may even want to spend personnel to run scientific experiment and train on the station. Thus, when you needed to start a mission, you'd already have your crew.


RE: First come, first serve
By delphinus100 on 1/19/2011 9:05:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The Moon has a big enough surface area to house refueling stations, restocking supply stations, living quarters, etc. with room to expand.


Which doesn't change what I said. It takes propellant to land on the Moon from elsewhere, more just to get back into space. You're going to do that, just to get fuel? Keep in mind that about the only thing the Moon offers for fuel resources is water, which can be broken into hydrogen and oxygen, and oxygen in the regolith, which can be separated. (an energy-intensive activity, but potentially solar-driven)

That's nice, if that's the fuel/oxidizer combination you need....and if there's enough to spare.

We know water-ice exists on the Moon, but there's issues with quantity and concentrations. I submit that there will be little enough of it there that it'll be far more valuable for life support and some industrial purposes (and even then, recycled carefully), than to turn into unrecoverable rocket exhaust.

On the other hand, as a space-based picture will show, Earth has ample water resources for hydrogen/oxygen, and other (hydrocarbon-based) fuel resources that the Moon doesn't have. Yes, it takes more energy to get from Earth surface to LEO, than from Lunar surface to Low Lunar Orbit...but again, fuel here is plentiful and cheap. The cost of fuel has never been what made spaceflight from Earth expensive.

Launch the stuff from Earth. We already have a pretty good idea of how to do long-term storage of cryofluids on orbit...

http://ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/Afford...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propellant_depot

Construct your spacecraft elements here (where all the manufacturing infrastructure already exists), launch to LEO and assemble...just as ISS was (orbiting stations obviously can expand too), assemble at leisure, checkout and test, fuel and send into deep space when ready.

Now, sending oxidizer alone from the Moon to LEO (water may be rare, but O2 is virtually unlimited in the Lunar crust) for ships assembled there may be worthwhile, but that's about all. You go to the Moon, to go to the Moon, not in order to go somewhere else. Refueling makes the most sense in LEO and/or from local resources at your destination...

http://marsjournal.org/contents/2006/0005/files/Sa...

...Not in a side trip to the Moon, unless that happens to be your destination.

(And understand, you might instead be using a nuclear thermal rocket, which would need only hydrogen as reaction mass...the Moon has even less to offer such a ship)

quote:
A LEO space station big enough to do the same would be obliterated by a constant bombarded of space debris


Is there record of even one debris impact on ISS? It may not be as big as you visualize, but it's been in operation long enough to know if that's remotely true...

quote:
If you have to building/maintaining a space craft manufacturing/repairing station on the Moon for cargo transport anyways, why not also use it to construct interplanetary spacecraft.


You miss the point. The Moon has potential as a source of some raw materials, but I don't believe anyone will create the entire chain of processing and manufacturing everything that a spaceship requires. Consider the electronics alone...do you know what an integrated circuit fabrication plant costs to build? And here on Earth where it's relatively easy? And it's built on the assumption that it will be producing many hundreds of thousands of units. Aluminum smelting on Earth doesn't exist just to make Shuttle external tanks, they sell finished aluminum to many other users...

And then there's plastics. Largely hydrocarbon-based. Crude oil, the source. Can't produce that, there.

Imagine tearing down a car or plane for recycling, and you'll see how much different stuff is in these, not just steel and aluminum and glass. Then imagine the reverse. Making all that different stuff. From scratch.

quote:
The moons gravity is only 1/6 that of the Earth. With the same thrust technology, you could launch larger interplanetary craft from the Moon.


Or build/launch it from (Earth) orbit, where weight's not an issue at all. Again, between Mir and ISS, we know something of orbital assembly. (Indeed, you have the option of low-thrust ion and similar rockets to get up to escape velocity [to the Moon or elsewhere] from LEO, for which even Lunar gravity is too much...though spiraling out slowly through the VanAllen belts is not good. Humans won't be on those, unless they can do a high-thrust departure first.)

http://www.dailytech.com/PostComment.aspx?newsid=2...


RE: First come, first serve
By cyclosarin on 1/19/2011 2:16:03 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Why? That's what Low Earth Orbit is for. What's the value of leaving Earth, descending into yet another gravity well, to launch a ship* that's going to a whole other location?


It requires much less energy to escape Earth's gravity by going to the Moon first.

The Moon has gravity, hence tidal action. This gravity pulls on space craft as well. There is a tipping point where the Moon's pull is greater than the Earth's pull. From that point onward the space craft gains kinetic energy as it approaches the Moon. It requires much less energy to leave the Moon.

It may appear as though energy is being generated out of nothing, but ultimately this process is stealing energy from the Moon.


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