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NASA and Astrobotic Investigating Ice Hunting Mission to the Moon

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the repurposed-as-newt's-moon-scooter dept.

Moon 46

Zothecula writes, quoting Gizmodo "While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable — water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon's north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a "lunar gas station." Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That's why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting."

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Transport (3, Funny)

trimpnick (1362187) | about 2 years ago | (#39796813)

Hopefully they design a vehicle to take them to the moon first...

Re:Transport (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39796951)

From Polaris rover [gizmag.com] "Already, Astrobotic has reserved the use of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle to send a spacecraft containing Polaris on a trajectory toward the Moon, for a planned 2015 prospecting mission. That spacecraft should be able to deliver the robot safely to the lunar surface, using a system that allows it to automatically avoid landing hazards such as large rocks or craters â" ", so it's already being addressed

Re:Transport (2)

trimpnick (1362187) | about 2 years ago | (#39797047)

I meant more a transport for humans, no point in making a lunar base using water if we're not gonna go there

the plan as it sits (2)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 2 years ago | (#39797175)

more or less i would guess that the plan goes

1 have bots build a "dome" and get minimal Life support online
2 get Astronauts up there to continue the work
3 get "civilian contractors" up once a decent set of domes is setup
4 get 1% folks up there and paying (now that we have Marriot-Luna setup)

having enough water to make mixed drinks would be a GOOD THING before we get to step 4

Re:the plan as it sits (1)

Chakra5 (1417951) | about 2 years ago | (#39797237)

yes, but mining the vodka is a sticking point

Re:the plan as it sits (2)

PaulBu (473180) | about 2 years ago | (#39797329)

Did not you know that Luna's main export are grains, mainly wheat -- quite suitable for making Vodka, take it from this Russian! ;-)

Paul B.

Re:the plan as it sits (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 2 years ago | (#39797639)

Yes, and every ton of that wheat contains some amount of increasingly hard-to-find H2O.

Which is why it's important to get that induction catapult shutdown ASAP....

First send the robots (3, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 2 years ago | (#39797293)

Well sending robots is the first step. Even NASA did so in the 1960s. The Surveyor program tested technology, landing, and various other things before the Apollo program sent the humans. One of the Apollo missions landed within a couple of hundred meters of one of the Surveyor missions. The astronauts visited the robot and brought back one of its cameras.

Re:First send the robots (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | about 2 years ago | (#39804485)

Well sending robots is the first step.

And hopefully the last. we need humans on the moon like we need ducks, tree kangaroos or submarines on the moon.

Re:Transport (2)

Biff Stu (654099) | about 2 years ago | (#39797299)

There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to build a lunar base that's going to use the water if we can't access the water. NASA is doing it right...It's a lot cheaper to send a robot to check out the water, see how easy it is to extract the water, and even return a sample to Earth than it is to send people there. And NASA would look really stupid if they get congress to fund a multi-billion dollar lunar base program only to discover that they don't have access to the water that they had counted on.

Re:Transport (4, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 2 years ago | (#39798725)

There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to build a lunar base that's going to use the water if we can't access the water.

There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to go to the moon in the first place.

It's vastly easier to get from LEO to the moon and back than it is to get to LEO from the earth's surface. If NASA finds usable water on the moon that can be turned into propellant, then we should take that and bring it to LEO to use as a fueling station. Then when we want to go to the moon, we only need to lift the craft itself and not all the propellant that it will need to get from earth to the moon (which has an exponential effect on the size of rocket you need to get to orbit).

What we need to start doing is treating space missions as two steps: 1) earth surface to earth orbit 2) earth orbit to wherever. And ideally stage 1) should never be lifting anything for stage 2) that doesn't need to come from earth.

NASA is indeed doing it right. They know this is the way to do things in the future, and it's what they're trying to aim for.

Of course then there's the Congress-mandated SLS pork rocket. Nice!

Re:Transport (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39799041)

"Hopefully they design a vehicle to take them to the moon first..."

BTW, the mayor of the moon dropped out of the presidential race.

Re:Transport (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 2 years ago | (#39805045)

Yup, need a vehicle, and a hunting licence.
Wake me up when there's talk of ice fishing on the moon. I can't imagine what they want to shoot on the ice.

Green cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39796829)

If it contains green cheese, it's a fair bet it contains life. Just saying.

Re:Green cheese? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39796903)

I believe that the Moon is made up of a form of Green cheese and I have never seen any evidence to the contrary that convinces me to the contrary.

And I'd have to add, that it is pretty arrogant of people to dismiss my faith of those facts when they have no convincing evidence to refute those facts!

Science, misleading people since before the Dark Ages!

Re:Green cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39796999)

You're a disaffected Santorum supporter, aren't you?

Re:Green cheese? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797143)

You're a disaffected Santorum supporter, aren't you?

Absolutely not!

He's NOT a Christian! He's just a Catholic - you know, people who worship ...Cathol.

Eddie Izzard - The Man!

Lunar Revolution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39796917)

Just remember, if you use that ice for fuel don't put any colonists up there that also use that ice for drinking water. Otherwise, sooner or later they will revolt like in Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."

Impressive (4, Informative)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 2 years ago | (#39796953)

650 million tons of ice sounds impressive, but it's really not a lot considering how much we use.

650,000,000 - tons of ice estimated on the moon's north pole
27,000,000,000,000,000 - tons of ice estimated on Antarctica
5,400,000,000,000,000 - tons freshwater on Earth excluding Antarctica
90 - tons of residential water use per American per year

Re:Impressive (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797061)

650 millions tons is a lot when you consider that a lunar facility would be recycling most of the water, this gives a nice starting point without having to haul it out of our gravity well.

This then leaves a lot of extra for use by space craft for various reasons. It's a lot cheaper to lift the water or by products from the moon then it is from the Earth!

Re:Impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39798119)

Do you think this ice is present in a large chunk of 650 million tons and you just break off what you need and melt it? And it's perfectly safe to drink?

Re:Impressive (5, Insightful)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about 2 years ago | (#39797171)

I don't believe that NASA is planning on moving 6 billion people to the moon. 650 million tons of ice is plenty for a few hundred person colony or refueling station. Plus I doubt that they would be watering lawns, taking long bubble baths, or washing their cars. So if each person uses 90 tons of ice, and assuming no recycling, then: 650,000,000 tons of ice / 90 tons of eater per American per year = 7,222,222.222 years of water for one person for one year. One hundred people can live on the moon for 72,222 years or so.

Re:Impressive (1)

skelly33 (891182) | about 2 years ago | (#39797375)

I agree that it would be a great localized resource to leverage, however I think it would be foolish to use it as rocket fuel. Fuel cell where what goes in comes right back out again? Ok, no problem. But burning it up in a rocket means it goes away and never comes back - and rockets can burn an awful lot of fuel real quick. I, for one, vote no on rocket fuel.

Re:Impressive (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39798397)

Obviously it's a non-renewable resource, but it could serve as a stepping stone to the asteroid belt. From there, water-heavy asteroids can be returned for future use, or for consumption on the moon.

I couldn't say whether this stepping stone makes sense in terms of investment; might be cheaper to go straight there.

Re:Impressive (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 2 years ago | (#39798369)

Once you have a significant amount of water and a refinery on orbit around the moon, this problem solves itself. You now have enough fuel to blast out to Ceres, which has more water ice on it than all the Earth's oceans and 0.03g surface gravity. Send a nuclear powered refinery out there the fast way with a big can. You don't even need to refine it at that point: you can blast all the way back with a steam powered rocket.

cheese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797055)

It's American cheese on the moon...

Space Nazis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797183)

Everyone should already know there are Nazis in the moon. www.ironsky.net

Drill drill drilll (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#39797285)

...or they can just do like we do on earth and drill for water, oil and gas. The planets are all made of the same stuff, so it should all be there.

Re:Drill drill drilll (1)

grahamd0 (1129971) | about 2 years ago | (#39797433)

...or they can just do like we do on earth and drill for water, oil and gas. The planets are all made of the same stuff, so it should all be there.

There's no oil on the moon. Oil comes from ancient biomass. There was never life on the moon, thus there is no oil now.

So cold.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797895)

Those ice deposits are in some of the coldest places in the solar system.
Can machinery operate in such cold? I would think that lubricants would freeze and metals would shatter like glass.

Re:So cold.... (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 2 years ago | (#39798351)

There's no air so warming the machine should be pretty easy, it just lose heat by infrared radiation, the only problem is the actual drill that would probably be drained from it's heat by the surrounding ice.

Re:So cold.... (2)

dietdew7 (1171613) | about 2 years ago | (#39798755)

Are you Trolling? The friction from drilling would warm the drill bit.

Re:So cold.... (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | about 2 years ago | (#39809907)

drilling.... in a cold cold cold place, into cold cold cold stuff, where you have to warm the machine... and your starting to talk about drill friction?
That's about like talking about muscle friction from walking in the arctic.

just ask Planetary Resouces (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39797985)

They held a press conference to advertize that they can do it for a measly 2 billion dollars with robots, easy*.

*apart from the whole launch, rockets, leaving earths gravity, super robots thing, anyday soon !

Re:just ask Planetary Resouces (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 2 years ago | (#39802439)

If you watched the whole show they have selected a specific day in 2014 for their first space operations (telescopes), and robots underway less than two after that. They are already grinding metal, and they're cash-flow positive. They look like they mean business.

Shadows (1)

phrostie (121428) | about 2 years ago | (#39799321)

If the Ice is down in the shadows of the polar craters, why do you power it with solar cells?

shouldn't you atleast set up rovers in pairs so one is on the rim(in the light) collecting energy and the other down in the hole doing the work?

Exploration & Exploitation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39802147)

I know it necessary to have incentive goto moon and try use resources found there. However, what chances if a boon does happen won't there be chance we'll end using up all the Water up there? Its not like the Moon has atmosphere recycle the stuff....I can image when i'm super-old and grey and look up to the moon see ugly planetoid cover lights, strip mining operations and urban-moon sprawl.

Re:Exploration & Exploitation (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 2 years ago | (#39802449)

We can use some of the water to go get more. There is no shortage of water in space. There's so much of it flying around out there that some of it hits the Earth every week.

Terrestrial Mining (1)

funnyandspicy (2560469) | about 2 years ago | (#39802805)

Almost all the minerals available on the Moon are also present on the Earth in sufficient quantities that mining them on the Moon and transporting them back is not economical. As a result, most discussion of mining on the Moon is geared towards how to make a lunar base self-sustaining, not how to make it an economically viable alternative to terrestrial mining. http://bit.ly/IeyKWF [bit.ly]
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