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The Prospects For Lunar Mining

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the peak-green-cheese dept.

Moon 348

MarkWhittington writes "With the discovery of vast amounts of water on the Moon, some frozen in the shadows of craters at the Lunar poles and some chemically bonded with the regolith, interest in lunar mining has arisen among commercial space entrepreneurs. Paul Spudis, a lunar geologist, has suggested a plan to return to the Moon, which features, among other things, robotic resource extraction and the deployment of space-based fuel depots using lunar water even before the first human explorers return to the lunar surface. But Mike Wall, writing in Space.com, suggests that there are a number of legal as well as technical issues involved in setting up lunar mining operations."

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348 comments

Save on supervisory staff (4, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910644)

by using clones!

Re:Save on supervisory staff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910712)

by using clones!

Just make sure they don't find out about each other.

Re:Save on supervisory staff (1)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911044)

I'm guessing no one else is getting this judging by the lack of responses and points. Awesome movie.

Re:Save on supervisory staff (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911294)

by using clones!

No, clones are people two!

Regolith? (1)

HtR (240250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910650)

Regolith? Is that something like the monolith they found buried there about 10 years ago?

Re:Regolith? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910732)

Regolith is the loose rock and dust that covers most of the moon's surface

There is no known material worth the expense of mining it on the moon, but I suspect companies such as Weyland-Yutani may find it a worth while exercise for research purposes.

Re:Regolith? (1)

Hylandr (813770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911288)

It'd be really Kewl if luna turned out to be an R64, then we'd be set!

- Dan.

Re:Regolith? (3, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911380)

There is no known material worth the expense of mining it on the moon

It would be about time that the media talk a bit more loudly about the uranium deposits found on the moon.
Is it worth the expense vs. mining on earth ? Yes, because it allows a use that would otherwise need uranium to be lifted out of the earth's gravity well : build a refinery that produces fuel for Orion-style ships.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

Or even that beam power back to earth without having us manage nuclear wastes.

Easy Legal Fix. (5, Funny)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910652)

Please direct all complaints to:

Luna Mining Company
1 Moon Drive
Moon

Energy requirements? (3, Insightful)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910690)

I'm surprised the most obvious challenge in going to the moon isn't mentioned in the article: that it takes a huge amount of energy to get to the moon and then to get back. I mean what are we going to mine that has so much value? Water? Energy production uses a huge amount of water. Going to the moon for some water is counter productive.

It is a far more efficient use of energy to mine the mineral out of garbage dumps than try to try to ship it from the moon.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910736)

One solution to this is to use energy sources on moon to "shoot" the mined minerals to the Earth. I am pretty sure that there are lots of nuclear materials on moon and we can use that.

Re:Energy requirements? (4, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910742)

it takes a huge amount of energy to get to the moon and then to get back

You don't have to send much material to the moon: "just" some mining and processing robots. The real trick will be getting the resulting large quantities of rocket fuel from the moon to where it would be useful (i.e. other Earth orbits). The moon's gravity well is much shallower than Earth's, but I'm not sure if it's shallow enough to make such a venture profitable.

I mean what are we going to mine that has so much value? Water? Energy production uses a huge amount of water.

Rocket fuel, apparently. But to get rocket fuel (read: hydrogen and oxygen) you have to split the mined moon-water, which means you'll need some energy source to do the splitting. Where will that energy come from? Vast solar panel arrays? Nuclear? Geothermal? (does the moon have any geothermal energy to be tapped?)

Re:Energy requirements? (4, Funny)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910782)

What's wrong with using oil? It's working well here on Earth.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910816)

I'm just going to put a preemptive "Whoosh" here before anyone replies to you.

Re:Energy requirements? (5, Interesting)

moteyalpha (1228680) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910844)

It would seem that the dark and light sides of the moon comprises a heat engine. For example, a tube which was placed about the pole and filled with gas, would expand in areas exposed to the sun and contract away from the sun in a continuous cycle, much like the engine that powers the Earths weather. It would this would be extensible and provide the local energy by turbine to operate some robotic process.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Antidamage (1506489) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910940)

You're new to the moon, aren't you?

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911350)

He brings up a good idea but poor execution. According to the recently released illumination map there are many places where this could be done.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910980)

The dark and light sides are fixed, they never shift.

Re:Energy requirements? (4, Informative)

aquila.solo (1231830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911018)

No. The "dark side" of the moon always faces away from the earth. It doesn't always face away from the sun. It is fully illuminated during the "new moon" phase.

HTH. HAND.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911286)

Does it matter which side is light and dark? I would think you only need a cold and a hot side for such an engine to work. Though I'm envisioning something more akin to a giant ring-tube around the entire moon with turbines in different places. I feel like it's very impractical but possible.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Shihar (153932) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911052)

No, they aren't. The moon is tidally locked with Earth. That means that the moon always faces Earth, not that it always faces the sun. This is why you always see the same face of the moon. What part of the moon is getting hit by the sun does indeed change. The "dark side of the moon" is the side Earth doesn't see, but the Sun sees it all the time.

Re:Energy requirements? (2)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911070)

Hardly. The "dark side" of the moon gets as much illumination as the side we see. We call it "dark" because we can't see it from Earth.

You sure you're a geek?

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911212)

the important thing is that the dark side of the moon syncs with the wizard of oz in meaningful ways.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911588)

It would seem that the dark and light sides of the moon comprises a heat engine. For example, a tube which was placed about the pole and filled with gas, would expand in areas exposed to the sun and contract away from the sun in a continuous cycle, much like the engine that powers the Earths weather.

It would this would be extensible and provide the local energy by turbine to operate some robotic process.

Theoreticaly it should work. Practically, the cosine-law [wikipedia.org] is your worst enemy...
1. staying close to the poles - building cost constraints - very poor angle of incidence ...
2. on a 28 days for a "full engine cycle" with probably about 1/3 of this duration in a situation where the gradient is not good enough (extremities of your "tube" too close to the day-night terminators) - need hell of a lot of "thermal inertia" to get the most of the "max temperature differential" period)

somehow... I don't think it's gonna work too well.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910944)

To get the material back, you do use large solar arrays and storage cells to power a magnetic rail gun. With a much lower escape velocity than earth's this shouldn't be too hard to do. Once you have the items shot into a lower orbit around earth, de-orbiting them doesn't take all that much fuel. It is just a matter of having the "deliverable" something that is actually worth doing all that with, and then shielding it from the heat and impact of re-entry. Something like this was done in Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". He was a lot better at ballistics calculations than I am - but something like that could be made to work. The big IF is IF you can find or produce something on the moon that has a high enough value to do this with as it would still be extremely expensive.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

kanto (1851816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911448)

I mean what are we going to mine that has so much value? Water? Energy production uses a huge amount of water.

Rocket fuel, apparently. But to get rocket fuel (read: hydrogen and oxygen) you have to split the mined moon-water, which means you'll need some energy source to do the splitting. Where will that energy come from? Vast solar panel arrays? Nuclear? Geothermal? (does the moon have any geothermal energy to be tapped?)

Helium-3 [wikipedia.org] has been discussed as an energy source on it's own and there has been interest in mining it on the moon (extraterrestrial supplies) [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911486)

Geothermal? (does the moon have any geothermal energy to be tapped?)

Geothermal? For sure it doesn't.

(hint: Geo comes from Gea or Gaia).

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911502)

A SolaGen MkI should provide enough power for all resources-related operations although I'd think they'd build better replacements as soon as possible in order to build Carracks to get the material back to Earth.

The real problem is that mining can't be done without at least fifty colonists so before we try to work out mining we'll first have to worry about building an S.I.O.S. and getting it up there.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911582)

It would be called lunathermal but yes, they think that the moon has at least a small molten core. The problem is that we are used to geothermal energy coming in some form of carrier (water) and in that regard the moon is a pretty dry place. There are more than enough thermal differences between sun/shade on the moon that you would not need to go to the complexity of drilling a borehole to get to a hot spot. Just put it in direct sunlight and there is a few hundred degrees of difference. A better bet might be to use a Carnot cycle engine (let's say with ammonia as a working fluid in a closed loop system, part in the shade, part in the sun). Or Peltier thermoelectric conversion (same hot/cold difference but with the direct conversion to DC electricity). For human habitation the best bet is underground (the deeper the better) to stabilize the temperature extremes, shield from radiation and as a fine building material. We have had a little bit of long term experience in operating machinery in a near vacuum (Mars) where odd things happen (solids that flow like fluids) and with bearing surfaces where conventional lubricants are fairly rare (other than the shuttle or the ISS). A solar furnace on the moon would develop a tremendous amount of heat for smelting operations. The moon appears to have abundant resources like aluminum in the regolith but it may be harder to find iron (meteorite mining). Going to the moon will need to yield "something" that is more difficult to get or manufacture than on the earth. Finding that technology and the market for the products will be a big challenge.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910750)

FTFS:

deployment of space-based fuel depots using lunar water even before the first human explorers return to the lunar surface

One application isn't returning it to Earth. Break up the water into liquid H2 and O2 and refuel on the Moon for operations further out.

Re:Energy requirements? (2)

Trapick (1163389) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910758)

It does take a lot of energy to get there, but returning from the moon is *lots* easier. You're not hampered by an atmosphere, and there's a lot less gravity to concern yourself with - so if there's anything that valuable - like Helium-3, if we ever get fusion working, it's not *that* expensive to return it to earth. I've also seen ideas for railgun-style launchers - then you'd have some enormous initial cost, but the marginal cost for a payload back to earth would be next to nothing - just the solar/nuclear power to run the magnets. Also, the moon is a good launching place for any other space exploration (or asteroid mining) we ever want to do.

Re:Energy requirements? (2)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910762)

Mike Wall's piece brings it up. Water can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen, which are the major components of rocket fuel. The idea is to mine and process it on the moon, then set up refueling stations in LEO so that you only need to carry enough fuel for part of the way. The hard part is getting off of Earth - going to the Moon, landing, taking off, and returning to Earth is much cheaper. That's why Apollo 13 could make it - big rocket going, small rocket coming back. If you eliminate the need for an über rocket at the first stage, that means smaller, lighter rockets carrying less weight, which means vastly, vastly cheaper travel costs, which makes it worth it if you can keep the good.

Re:Energy requirements? (4, Interesting)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910772)

I'm surprised the most obvious challenge in going to the moon isn't mentioned in the article: that it takes a huge amount of energy to get to the moon and then to get back. I mean what are we going to mine that has so much value? Water? Energy production uses a huge amount of water. Going to the moon for some water is counter productive.

We would not be mining the moon for anything that would go back down the gravity well to Earth. We would be mining it for resources for space exploration and operations instead of mining Earth for them. The moon, being smaller has a much smaller cost of getting materials into orbit. If we need a sufficient amount of those materials, it becomes cheaper to ship a mining operation from Earth to the moon and then those materials to space than to ship all the materials straight from Earth. Water is the main resource people are talking about and to reach that break even point, we'd need megatons of the stuff. The only operations that might being to need that much resources from the moon would be large scale habitation or perhaps a trip to Mars. in short, out side of pure science, there will not be any need to mine the moon till there is already a great deal of activity in space at which point mining the moon will just be a cost cutting method.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911228)

Won't mining the moon screw up all life on Earth, if we mine enough? Remove enough mass from the moon and it'll escape Earth's orbit; but even before it does that, it will change the lunar cycle, possibly affecting tides as well as, perhaps, menstrual cycles. (Yes, I am likely thinking far into the future.)

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

zdepthcharge (1792770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911418)

Short answer: No.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911572)

Are you a scientoligist too? Do you think that wind mills are going to steal energy from the wind? Holy hell.

Re:Energy requirements? (1, Interesting)

mibe (1778804) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910780)

Helium-2, rare earths, and who says we necessarily need to send everything back to Earth?

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

tylersoze (789256) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911012)

Helium 2? What universe are you from? One where the strong nuclear force is 2% greater?

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

rangek (16645) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911230)

I think you mean helium-3. Helium-2 is quite impossible.

Re:Energy requirements? (2)

Chryana (708485) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910948)

I had similar thoughts when I read the summary. From reading the article, it seems the plan would be to do some robotic mining in order to prepare to create a moon base, so this is not purely about mining. If someone has more knowledge of this topic, feel free to correct me here, but it seems it would be much cheaper to do mining in the asteroid belt rather than to go back to the moon, because you avoid the cost of launch out of the moon gravity well. Of course, going to the asteroid belt requires solving a different set of problems, since the journey is longer and farther from the Earth.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Picardo85 (1408929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910982)

certain isotopes of gases which would be great for use in fusion chambers are found in "abundance", compared to on earth that is, are found in the moon soil. Some very rare metals can also be found on the moon. But i don't think space travel is energy efficient yet for another 10-15 years at least for those ventures to be economically viable.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910986)

I mean what are we going to mine that has so much value? Water?

Well, what about the unobtanium? You know, the elements on the periodic table found right between Illudium and weapon's grade Balloneyum.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910998)

Giant escalator! there, problem solved.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Troll-Under-D'Bridge (1782952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911000)

Easily fixed. Build a space elevator. No, wait. That would make it dirt cheap to haul water from the Earth's oceans onto geostationary orbit.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911050)

Why haul it. Just attach a tube and siphon the water out of the ocean : )

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

Troll-Under-D'Bridge (1782952) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911374)

Because A.C. Clarke said so;) In Songs of Distant Earth [wikipedia.org] , the advanced space-faring humans (as against the native humans of the ocean planet Thalassa) haul water from the world ocean by freezing a few cubic meters of it at a time and then pulling the blocks of ice up.

The difference between hauling up ice cubes and siphoning water is the difference between using a bucket to fetch water for your small camp (a digital activity that can be measured by the number of trips to and from the camp) and diverting a river to bring water to a whole town (a continuous and thereby analog activity). Siphoning water may be more efficient in the long haul, but initially more expensive and even more daunting than building an already technically challenging beanstalk to the sky. Just think of the excess mass that would be added to the elevator complex by the pipe and the water flowing through it.

Re:Energy requirements? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911154)

Helium-3 in the long term. Solar energy is also extremely abundant above Earth's atmosphere. It's easier energetically speaking, to manufacture solar cell components from resources extracted from the moon and ship it to LEO than it is to do so on Earth and ship it up to LEO. The idea is to have solar cells in LEO or Geostationary orbit and beam the power to ground stations in the form of microwave power.

Abundant water? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911548)

TFA says there are 600 million metric tonnes. That doesn't sound like a lot to me, considering the reservoir down the road (not that big, and which dries out some years) is almost 30 million tonnes. So you'd get 20 years at the consumption of a medium city, out of a whole planet-size object's pole. It's about 1/35000 the volume of Lake Baikal, so it's really not that plentiful.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911392)

You are getting HE3 on the moon. High grade fusion reactor fuel. The point of water is that it makes things habitable there, and that it makes mining techniques that we currently understand and use more practical.

>It is a far more efficient use of energy to mine the mineral out of garbage dumps than try to try to ship it from the moon.
You have no idea what you are talking about.

Re:Energy requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911590)

O3 The theoretically perfect material for a breeder reactor is what is driving this as well as the JPL focus on extra terrestrial mining. US longer term energy strategy involves private mining of 03 and there has already been a movie on this theme. I, for one, do not see all this techno overkill as a great substitute for organic systems that have kept carbon units going for billions of years. I welcome our new fusion based CPU based moon mining station alpha overlords, however.

Been waiting for this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910700)

I maxed my mining, now what news of herbing

Yeah let's do it! (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910702)

There's a whole new planet just waiting to be overexploited and ruined by greedy corporations out there...

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910784)

Oh c'mon.. It's not like Hoot Owls are going to go extinct or anything

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910794)

Some might say that there's a whole new planet waiting to support more humans, and the other life we have to bring along to make ours work, out there. You can stay behind and gripe.

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910850)

What do we need more humans for?

Re:Yeah let's do it! (0)

medcalf (68293) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910896)

Ah, yes, the problem with the world is too many people. I've never gotten that argument. If you really have a problem with people living, why not start solving the problem by taking care of yourself?

Re:Yeah let's do it! (3, Funny)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911042)

Inefficient. You get much more bang for your buck killing other people.

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911384)

Rather than answering my question, you inverted it, made it a statement, then attributed the statement to me? Then concluded I should kill myself?

Please ease up on the vitriol. I mean you no harm.

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

The Mighty Buzzard (878441) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911030)

Target practice.

Zero sum game, anyone? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911152)

You seem to be worried that there isn't enough pie to go around.

Maybe part of the solution is to make more pie.

Re:Zero sum game, anyone? (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911434)

And if we don't have enough people to make all that pie, maybe part of the solution is to make more people?

International Campaign to Save the Dust! (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910820)

Yeah, I can hardly wait for all the posts about how the moon has such a delicate ecosystem.

We certainly must not disrupt a pristine environment like that.

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910842)

There's a whole new planet just waiting to be overexploited and ruined by greedy corporations out there...

Ruined how exactly? Is there some flourishing lunar ecosystem (complete with 10-foot smurfs) that I am not aware of?

Re:Yeah let's do it! (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910888)

The moon is as dead as a doornail already. In a few million years, every human mining operation will be pounded to dust by space debris and the moon will look exactly the same as it always has.

They can own what they extract and process (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910726)

But exclusivity over the land? Never! That's for speculators who trade nothing but currency. Screw them.

Re:They can own what they extract and process (1)

medcalf (68293) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910806)

If private property is such a problem for you, perhaps I can have yours?

Re:They can own what they extract and process (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910852)

The crater is like an aquifer, you get to draw from it, but you don't own the whole thing. Everybody else has the same right.

Re:They can own what they extract and process (0)

medcalf (68293) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910874)

Why? Why don't those who get there get to use the land how they choose?

Re:They can own what they extract and process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911054)

Because that would piss off the commu^Wsocia^Wdemocrats.

Re:They can own what they extract and process (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911136)

Where did I say they can't? However, now that you mention it, they must use it in an inoffensive manner, no contamination of the surrounding area allowed. What they are not allowed is exclusive access.

we need a less fuel useing way to get there as the (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910734)

we need a less fuel useing way to get there as the oil costs are high to get the moon.

Moon Miners Manifesto: (2)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910766)

Maybe Peter Kokh and the rest of the Lunar Reclamation Society (www.moonsociety.org) will see their dream someday.

I last heard from them in the late 1980s.

I note they have a chapter in India now. At least people somewhere haven't given up the dream.

Re:Moon Miners Manifesto: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911024)

Will they fund a country on this new land? Will it be called "lunacy"? And if so, are they legitimate lunatics?

Re:Moon Miners Manifesto: (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911074)

Well, even Peter might admit they're lunatics.

But they're the right kind of lunatics. :)

Notch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910770)

Not until Notch says we can!

Just what we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910802)

Lawyers on the moon.

Re:Just what we need... (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910858)

Sounds good to me. Let's send them all there.

Re:Just what we need... (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910950)

Sounds good to me. Let's send them all there.

O2 sold separately..

A Harsh Mistress (3, Insightful)

Nethead (1563) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910822)

I can't think of one story about mining on the moon that didn't result in a lunar revolt. I'd say the last thing they have to worry about is who owns the resources. It's the staff/residents you have to watch out for.

Re:A Harsh Mistress (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910868)

Exactly. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

So what is there of value to mine? (1)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910860)

Please tell me there's a plutonium core with a thin, dusty crust floating on top.

Re:So what is there of value to mine? (4, Informative)

amanicdroid (1822516) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910910)

FTFA: "helium 2 and rare Earth elements"

woo..
gonna need some specifics before I get behind this project.

Re:So what is there of value to mine? (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911032)

Helium 3 is so much better than Plutonium it's not funny. You get normal Helium and protons and of course gamma rays from the fusion reaction. Besides Plutonium is for making bombs, Thorium is what you want if you want safer fission power.

Re:So what is there of value to mine? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911372)

Except for the little fact that we have NO FUSION POWER technology, you are right! But since when did reality and practical engineering ever get in the way of Space Nutters?

You know, anti-matter is even more betterer than Helium 3 it's not funny. See? It's easy to write childish and delusional things down. Now go do it.

legal issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910866)

a number of legal and technical issues, not to mention the whole altering the moons gravitational pull on the earth and subsequent tidal and other planetary mass related issues....

Re:legal issues? (1)

Skidborg (1585365) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911302)

You don't see us worrying about messing up orbits and falling into the sun when we do mining here on earth, do you?

Seems kind of expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910880)

"With the discovery of vast amounts of water on the Moon, some frozen in the shadows of craters at the Lunar poles and some chemically bonded with the regolith, interest in lunar mining has arisen"

I've seen some expensive bottled water but that has got to be a lot more expensive than Evian.

Interest has arisen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34910900)

in getting venture capital out of gullible investors with no clue about energetic and physical realities. This is a joke. It wasn't even remotely feasible in the cheap oil Space Age with two superpowers going all out for space; it certainly won't be viable now.

This is as unrealistic as the space-based solar power project from a few years ago. Where is it now? Oh yeah, can't happen.

There's no magnetosphere around the Moon. It's not healthy for humans to hang out there for too long. How are you going to justify shielding humans to work as miners when it's one of the most unglamorous, unskilled and low-paid jobs on Earth?

Machines? We don't have the technology for fully automated mining. There is a vacuum on the Moon, vacuum cementing means that every single machine and lubricant needs to be re-thought.

For what? The same elements are available on Earth with an entire civilization to supply energy, machines and cheap labor.

Raw minerals just aren't worth enough to justify it. The Moon could be made of solid gold you won't justify it.

He3? Give me a break. We have NO FUSION TECHNOLOGY.

STAR TREK WAS NOT A REALITY SHOW.

Re:Interest has arisen (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911382)

"There's no magnetosphere around the Moon. It's not healthy for humans to hang out there for too long. How are you going to justify shielding humans to work as miners"

Maybe this has something to do with the fact that they talk about robotic resource extraction?

"when it's one of the most unglamorous, unskilled and low-paid jobs on Earth"

What Earth are you talking about? Minering might be unglamorous but you can bet it's neither unskilled nor low-paid. And if we talk about minery on challenging conditions (i.e.: oil platform workers) even less so.

"Machines? We don't have the technology for fully automated mining. There is a vacuum on the Moon, vacuum cementing means that every single machine and lubricant needs to be re-thought."

Well, that's your bet. *If* (and I won't go here if that's a big or a little "if" now) there's the chance to make a profit, you'll see the technology growing up (there's nothing inherently impossible in fully automate, or let them go some workers to watch out, or monitoring/operating from Earth).

"STAR TREK WAS NOT A REALITY SHOW."

Luckily enough this time won't be like the last one. As long as it is a private endevour you'll be absolutly free to risk your money on it or not.

Fusion! (1)

steeleyeball (1890884) | more than 3 years ago | (#34910996)

1) never clone somebody without their permission. 2) Aneutronic helium 3 Fusion... Sweet...

Re:Fusion! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911016)

1) Don't worry. We have no cloning technology. It would probably be harder than it seems, plus you don't really have "sci-fi" clones with the same memories. You'll have a baby that will require a few decades to turn into an adult, while the original human ages at the same rate. Surely this is obvious.

2) We have no such technology. Even if we did, electricity is cheap enough that such grandiose technological solutions are not viable.

Reality sucks. I know.

The Prospects For Lunar Mining (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34911014)

mmmmmmmmmm moon powder.

Wtf do they expect to find gold, diamonds, platinum? No, this would be more of a proof-of-concept study on the cheap. Waste of time and money given our current known propulsion tech. Oh but private enterprise you say? Better not be any subsidies coming from the govt.

Re:The Prospects For Lunar Mining (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911252)

I think the idea is that if you dig up water on the moon, you can electrolyze it and use it as rocket propellant to get you to other locations (like mars, or wherever) less expensively than launching from the earth. Here is a nifty depiction of the potential benefit [xkcd.com] .

Re:The Prospects For Lunar Mining (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911416)

"Wtf do they expect to find gold, diamonds, platinum?"

I would certainly expect to find Selenium, of course.

Sam Rockwell better run (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911058)

His life is about to get a lot weird on the . . . Moon.

purpose?; humans vs robots (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911076)

There are two completely orthogonal ideas being discussed in these articles: (1) Send humans to the moon again, and help them to survive and return, all at a more reasonable price, by extracting drinking water and rocket fuel (hydrogen and oxygen) from lunar ice. (2) Extract water from the moon and bring it down to low earth orbit for sale as a commodity (rocket fuel).

#1 raises the question of why it would be valuable to send humans to the moon again. The author of the airspacemag.com article says that we should do this as a warm-up for colonizing other planets in the solar system, and it should be done by the US federal government using tax money. This seems foolish to me. The other planets of the solar system are not good real estate, and there needs to be a clear justification for why humans should colonize space at all. If the justification is profit, then the US federal government doesn't need to fund it with tax money. If the motivation is the Larry Niven quip that "the dinosaurs didn't have a space program," then it's not at all clear that moon-then-Mars is the best way to go, and if we want to find out the best way to go, flying nationalistic propaganda missions for the US is not the best way to do it. The best way to go may be, for example, a space station orbiting Europa. We just don't know right now.

#2 is very sensible for any for-profit entity that can find a customer at low earth orbit willing to buy rocket fuel. But: (a) #2 doesn't require sending humans to the moon at all, and (b) this raises the question of who the LEO customers are, why they are there, and why they want to buy rocket fuel. Presently, the only prospective customers are the US and Russia, who keep humans in LEO for nationalistic propaganda purposes, and who might want to buy some drinking water; I doubt that that type of demand is sufficient to justify lunar mining. In the near future, we may have space tourists in orbit, but again it's not clear that they need *that* much drinking water. Uncrewed space probes going to the outer solar system could use rocket fuel, but I doubt that they need *that* much rocket fuel. So really the only reasonable customer would be someone who wants to send very large payloads to someplace like Mars, and this simply leads us back to the same issue, which is that the justification for sending humans to Mars is extremely weak for the foreseeable future.

Haha, lawyers. . . (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911128)

It's not clear that you'd own what you dig up? Who could stop you from using it?! I'd say the fundamental concept of ownership (if you've got it, it's yours) applies more than some bizarre treaty that's never had any real significance.

All this means... (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911464)

... is that Russia or India or Japan or anyone-but-the-USA that doesn't respect a bunch of bogus regulations that are designed to work to the disadvantage of the USA in the 1st place will be doing the mining, and we'll have to IMPORT the expensive, outer-space minerals that we should have been mining in the 1st place.

(dreaming of) Running before learning to walk... (1)

AfroTrance (984230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911526)

We don't even have a moon base. And building a moon base, purely to mine on the moon, is stupid. There is enough minerals down here (currently). The only way it would be worthwhile, is if we worked out fusion power and if helium-3 was far (far far) superior to anything on Earth for fusion.

IEEE article on mining the moon (1)

buybuydandavis (644487) | more than 3 years ago | (#34911528)

http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/mining-the-moon [ieee.org]

It looks like the idea is to mine the moon for materials to make fuel for space exploration.

Also, if we ever get fusion going, heavy isotopes of hydrogen and helium become possible targets.

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