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The Economic Development of the Moon

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the looking-forward-to-my-io-apartment dept.

Moon 408

MarkWhittington writes "Andrew Smith, the author of Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth, recently published a polemic in the British newspaper The Guardian, entitled Plundering the Moon, that argued against the economic development of the Moon. Apparently the idea of mining Helium 3, an isotope found on the Moon but not on the Earth (at least in nature) disturbs Mr. Smith from an environmentalist standpoint. An examination of the issue makes one wonder why."

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Wonder and amazement (5, Insightful)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218603)

From TFA[1]:

The prospect of either Helium 3 fueled fusion or space based solar power or a combination of both replacing fossil fuels should excite people who express concern for the Earth's environment
It's a big, dead rock in space, boys. I doubt that the ridiculous cost of space travel will ever fall enough to make it worthwhile, but in case that happens, the lunar environmentalists will be there to file EPA complaints against anyone trying to make the moon economically productive.

If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that the moon was being raped?

Re:Wonder and amazement (4, Funny)

schlouse (36695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218633)

I, for one, welcome our new moon raping overlords.

Re:Wonder and amazement (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218697)

which just cries out for a visual, so here ya go:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/0/04/Le_Voyage_dans_la_lune.jpg [wikimedia.org]

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

schlouse (36695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218805)

As well as this one [moonraper.com] ...

Re:Wonder and amazement (3, Funny)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218881)

I, for one, welcome our new PER* overlords.
==
* People For The Ethical Treatment of Rocks.

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

wootest (694923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219059)

Or "PETR".

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

Marcos Eliziario (969923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219125)

disleyx, you nkow....

I'd vote for... (5, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218657)

If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that the moon was being raped?

Given our current level of technology, if I looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, I would be filled with a sense of wonder about the ingenuity of aliens, and with forbidding and dread that the Earth would be next.

Sure... (1)

msimm (580077) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218941)

Why not. I'm a clean enough energy source.

Re:Sure... (4, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219269)

Not to mention that you are free labor, and food to boot.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218685)

I don't know how much Helium-3 there is on the moon, but this seems like trading fossil fuels for another nonrenewable energy resource.

Re:Wonder and amazement (5, Insightful)

Rycross (836649) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218759)

Everything is non-renewable given a long enough time frame. Entropy is a bitch.

Re:Wonder and amazement (4, Funny)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218983)

Solution: harvest entropy.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219045)

For every entropy you harvest, 2 entropies escape!

Re:Wonder and amazement (2, Funny)

Garridan (597129) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219107)

An entropy in the hand, is better than two in the bush.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219251)

An entropy in the hand, is better than two in the bush.

Unless it's potential entropy. In which case, this should've been filed under philosophy.slashdot.org.

And, it depends on which Bush it is. Some of them look like they could use three or four entropies all up inside 'em.

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219035)

Everything is non-renewable given a long enough time frame. Entropy is a bitch.

Wouldn't that violate the law of conservation of energy?

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218715)

If we alter the mass of the moon, won't it effect the tides on the Earth? Its not as if that thing (the moon)is just up there for fun, after all. Just because it doesn't really have an environment doesn't mean it won't mess up ours.

Re:Wonder and amazement (1, Interesting)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218863)

maybe we can dump other shit on it, sort of like trading

Not in any measurable way (1)

el_munkie (145510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218867)

The mass of He-3 on the moon is a ridiculously tiny fraction of the mass of the moon itself. Even if we got all the He-3, it would in no way affect the tides.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218929)

Right. First off, the force due to gravity is directly proportional to the mass of the moon. So a 1% change in mass is a 1% change in force.

So how much material would we have to remove from the moon for a 1% smaller force creating the tides? The moon is about 7.3477×10^22 kg. So to cause a 1% decrease in the force that causes tides.... 734770000000000000000 kg.

Good luck with that.

Re:Wonder and amazement (2, Interesting)

azuredrake (1069906) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219053)

Additionally, the tidal forces of the moon are slowly robbing the Earth of its momentum. The Earth used to spin much faster, rotating as many as 400 times during a single orbit of the sun. Taking a tiny chunk out of that slowdown might not be such a bad thing, eh?

Re:Wonder and amazement (3, Funny)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218723)

Well, from a practical standpoint, we should be using earthbound energy sources to create space based energy sources, then switch to them entirely, and in the same way, we should be using earthbound resources to gain the capacity to gather off-earth resources, and eventually, harvest material that comes from outside the solar system and switch to them entirely.

You stretch the timeline out long enough and assume success and growth, someday we're going to want to have this solar system as a Galactic Wildlife Park. We want it to be the shining jewel of humanity, not a burnt out old husk that we fled because we had to.

You Can't Skip Steps (4, Insightful)

BlackGriffen (521856) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218897)

In order to get to the point that we could make an entire solar system a boondoggle, we'll have to get out of ours first. That means tapping energy and resources available in the solar system, whether the process is pretty or not.

It's all getting destroyed by the sun in a few billion years, anyway.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218821)

If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that the moon was being raped?
A little of both, probably.

To turn this around: If you were taking a walk through an Appalachian forest, and saw a bulldozer leveling off the top of a mountain to extract coal, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that a pile of rock was being raped?

Sure, on the face of it, worrying about the "environmental" destruction of the moon doesn't make a terrible lot of sense. But as human beings, we've decided a lot of things are worth preserving that, on the face of it, shouldn't have any value to us. And there's nothing wrong with that.

The moon has been up in our sky for billions of years, and for as long as humans have existed, it's remained the same. It's also played a major part in the development of our science and technology, from the ancients to Newton and Galileo, and beyond.

Now, if someone had enough of an economic impact on the moon so the face was visibly changed to, say, display an advertisement for Pizza Hut, would it still be reasonable to called those who were outraged by such things environmentalist wackos? Can human beings really continue to delude ourselves that we don't have the power to make such sweeping changes to our environment?

Re:Wonder and amazement (4, Insightful)

jtroutman (121577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218917)

If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that the moon was being raped?

If I looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, I'd be filled with a sense of wonder at how far telescope technology had come. Even the most powerful scopes we have here on Earth can't pick out the man-made stuff already on the moon.

Re:Wonder and amazement (2, Insightful)

Kremmy (793693) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219111)

I've wondered about that. We've got telescopes giving us images of things far beyond on our solar system, so why not high resolution imagery of the moon? It would be trivial to solve the debate on whether we actually went to the moon or not if we could look in a telescope and see what we left there. Surely the Hubble occasionally pointed at the moon, are there any images from that? I'd really like to know.

Re:Wonder and amazement (2, Informative)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219349)

The Hubble telescope can't really take pictures of Earth [hubblesite.org] because it is moving too fast. I could be wrong, but maybe the Hubble can't take pictures of the moon for the same reason.

Re:Wonder and amazement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218937)

Think of the worst strip mine you have ever seen. Now think about the moon's surface, and you will quickly realize there is no way that mining could make the moon look worse (but in fact might actually improve what it looks like).

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

carandol (1110309) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219213)

Think of the worst strip mine you have ever seen. Now think about the moon's surface, and you will quickly realize there is no way that mining could make the moon look worse (but in fact might actually improve what it looks like).
That's subjective and subject to change. People used to think the Alps and England's Lake District were wild and ugly and unpleasant, and now they're major tourist attractions, the epitome of beauty. I imagine a lunar aesthetic could well grow up with increased visits. I can't remember which astronaut described the moon as "magnificent desolation" but I doubt he'd have said that about a strip mine.

Re:Wonder and amazement (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219055)

"If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there, mining the moon for energy resources, would you be filled with a sense of wonder and pride about the ingenuity and courage of your fellow man, or with forbidding and dread that the moon was being raped?"

Mine the farside, who would ever know?

Re:Wonder and amazement (4, Funny)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219131)

It sounds like the premise of the next Bond flick: MoonRaper.

Re:Wonder and amazement (5, Insightful)

sdnick (1025630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219301)

Apparently the idea of mining Helium 3, an isotope found on the Moon but not on the Earth (at least in nature) disturbs Mr. Smith from an environmentalist standpoint.

There is no legitimate environmentalist standpoint worth discussing about the Moon. There is no life on the Moon. There is no environment for environmentalists to worry about. If they're worried about the faint possibility that human mining will somehow create some crater on the moon visible from the Earth, they can just pretend an asteroid made it, same as the millions of other craters littering the moon's surface. Or just perform the mining on the horribly scarred side of the Moon facing away from the Earth and dare anyone to claim that man's activities make it look worse.

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219309)

If you looked at the sky through a telescope and saw a tiny robot mining plant there,

If I could do that, I'd be asking who built that telescope and whether I could afford one. I'd love to have optics of that quality.

-jcr

Re:Wonder and amazement (1)

Socguy (933973) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219333)

Ya, I gotta say that as much as I support the environment here on earth, I can't think of a single reason why we shouldn't mine the moon....

The Grand Canyon is pretty low on observable life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218635)

...so we wouldn't bother preserving that, right? It must be ugly, right?

Same with Craters of the Moon National Monument, eh? Not worth preserving, because it's short on biology and therefore ugly.

Oh, people found these two places beautiful enough to save them? He's right, I guess the rest of us do have a different idea of beauty.

Re:The Grand Canyon is pretty low on observable li (1)

Steve Embalmer (783552) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218767)

Well, it's not just that the moon is "low on observable life", it's that it has NO life, and no atmosphere. Besides, have you been to the Grand Canyon? There is much life! There is no "environmental equivalence" between the Earth and the moon. It's not an aesthetic question.

Besides, mining the moon for every gram of He3 would not change your view of it one iota.

Re:The Grand Canyon is pretty low on observable li (2, Insightful)

cheebie (459397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218795)

Where in the world did you get the idea that there is little
visible life in the Grand Canyon?

http://digital-desert.com/grand-canyon/wildlife.html [digital-desert.com]

The moon is a great big dead rock. Moving the pieces of that
rock around won't affect anything in the slightest. Sure, we'll
probably preserve the Apollo sites, and maybe a few particularly
picturesque spots, but the rest of it is a future mining site.

You know what it's made of, right? (4, Funny)

jdtch (1175537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218641)

I think neglecting the potential for cheese mining is the real crime here.

Re:You know what it's made of, right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218813)

Bah, who cares about cheese miners?

Obviously, the big money will be made by Whalers on the Moon.

Re:You know what it's made of, right? (2, Funny)

sssssss27 (1117705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219099)

Wallace and Gromit are working on that

The moon doesn't have an "environment" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218649)

As I think of it. I think most people think of clean air and water and an ecosystem as an environment. Not a bunch of dead dust in a vacuum.

It seems that many in the "environmental" movement just want nothing to change from its "natural" state, even where there is no nature.

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (-1, Flamebait)

Coniptor (22220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218801)

Hey *RETARD*!
You do realize the tides are caused by the moon and that it is CLOSELY tied to OUR environment here on earth with regard to our seasons and such. NO I'm not saying it's the direct cause. There is more to it than that. However, you don't think a bunch of *GREEDY* companies who's hunger for MORE which never ends mining the moon for resources and thus over time dwindling it's MASS could have ADVERSE affects to it's gravitational pull with regard to the EARTH! No I won't give them the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn't cause irrevocable harm while we are still alive. I'm also NOT ok with the argument that that is a issue for tomorrows generation. If you are, someone ought to fire you, out of a cannon, into the sun!

Asteroids as a resource makes much more sense but businesses won't want to do that. Can't make money off of something that doesn't also risk the lives of everyone else on earth after all!!!

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (1)

Who235 (959706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218849)

How much mining, exactly, do you think can be done?

Do you really think anyone can alter the mass of a 7.36×10^22 kilogram rock enough to change its gravity? Do you think they can take _that_ much off?

Really?

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (2, Interesting)

Coniptor (22220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219151)

I have a problem with mining for the reasons I mentioned on top of people, companies, nations wanting to "Stake a claim."
In that case you have fighting over who has control of what. No one comes to an agreement and some say, "Well this side is ours."
"Well fine then we will take this part over here." All it would take is a couple interested parties then more all *competing* to be richer and have more influence down here. It could also lead to war and not like we have experienced in the past.
I do NOT have faith in humanity as a whole with regard to matters like this. Far more likely that humanity destroys it self through hubris and lack of foresight than for them to get something as critical as this right the first time.

I think energy and time would be better spent in mining asteroids and learning how to manage them which would help in other areas such as manging them in case we actually do find we have one coming right for us. I think mining the moon is greedy and short sighted and just humanity running from it's past mistakes without learning anything and moving on business as usual. When humanity as a whole has the chance to learn a lesson it desperately needs to learn it's likely going to be our end due to the greed and short sightedness. I simply don't want it to be too late. I also think if anyone is seriously considering mining the moon it should have to wait until years more research goes into it and the possible consequences are more greatly understood and we have a MUCH greater understanding of how it's ALL tied together. If mining the moon could have catastrophic repercussions it WILL NOT be a quick or easy fix if one can even be found.

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (5, Insightful)

cheebie (459397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218935)

Mass of the Moon: 7.3477×10^22 Kg according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon [wikipedia.org] .

Number of humans currently on earth, massively rounded up: 10^10.

That means that every person on earth would need to use up
seven TRILLION Kg of material to exhaust the moon. Every single
person on earth could grab ten tons of moon-material and have no
appreciable effect on the Moon's mass or it's effect on the tides.

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (1, Interesting)

Sta7ic (819090) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218947)

Mod parent up. One of the big deals about mining our moon if how intimately it's tied into the climate cycles. The moon drives the tides, the tides help move hot and cold water around, leading to various cycles in marine life and in the atmosphere (such as wind, coastal weather, and precipitation) ... Sure, the moon's a "big dead rock", but it's contributing to the current balance of our bigger not-quite-so-dead rock.

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (4, Interesting)

SIGALRM (784769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218961)

Hey, I know you're trolling, but your comment was so full of inaccuracies I just couldn't help myself.

tides are caused by the moon
Common misperception. Tides are influenced by the moon but are caused by the rotation of the Earth and many other factors.

you don't think a bunch of *GREEDY* companies who's hunger for MORE
Companies feed the hunger of consumers. They may be greedy, but we demand the energy.

thus over time dwindling it's MASS
You do realize the moon is quite large (would fit into the Pacific ocean), correct? How very knee-jerk of you.

I won't give them the benefit of the doubt that they wouldn't cause irrevocable harm while we are still alive
I think you underestimate the difficult proposition of even getting to the moon and mining a single truckload of He3 in your lifetime, let alone a significant portion.
If you are, someone ought to fire you, out of a cannon, into the sun!
Flamebait. I'm not taking it, but isn't the "do it for the children" a pretty ridiculous argument in this (very hypothetical case)?

GPP was not a retard, examine yourself before calling others names pls.

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (2, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218977)

Asteroids as a resource makes much more sense but businesses won't want to do that. Can't make money off of something that doesn't also risk the lives of everyone else on earth after all!!!
Your worries are unfounded. Let's say you push an asteroid into orbit containing a cubic mile of gold. Doesn't do you much good up there, does it? No, you have to somehow get that gold to the surface of the Earth. Sure, there's always a country somewhere we wouldn't mind turning into a crater (a crater *made of gold*!), but what if they miss? I think the businesses have the "risking the lives of everyone else on Earth" part worked out fine for asteroids!

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (1)

jpatters (883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219149)

If you are, someone ought to fire you, out of a cannon, into the sun!

Watch out... every action has an equal and opposite reaction... if you fire me off into the sun, you might just send the Earth hurtling out in the other direction...

Re:The moon doesn't have an "environment" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219155)

Your opening makes you sound like you're a retard yourself.
And NO dumbass, mining will in no significant way alter the mass of a 7.3477×1022^22 kg rock.

Environmentalism *almost* irrelevant here (1)

jpfed (1095443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218699)

The only environmental significance I can think of that the moon has is that its gravity may help to stabilize the Earth's axis (and therefore, its climate). (This was discussed in Asimov's "Left Hand of the Electron"). For the foreseeable future, the moon will be capable of performing that role.

Praxis (4, Funny)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218709)

If we mine the moon, then we'll become dependent on its resources. When it finally explodes (as moons are notorious for doing), our glorious space empire will fall.

Watched "The Time Machine" too many times (2, Interesting)

furtive_glance (1183043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218731)

In the movie the main character is having an interesting journey through time until he hit a 'bump' at August 26th 2037, where he finds a Moon mining operation has disrupted the lunar orbit. As a result, the Moon is breaking apart and showering Earth with massive chunks of rock. His presence outside of a shelter leads to an attempt by two military personnel to arrest him, but after they draw his attention to the shattered Moon and give him a brief explanation behind its present state, there is a scuffle and he escapes. He makes it into the time machine just as the city is being destroyed, but is knocked out and fails to witness the destruction of human civilization. But that was just a movie (and a book) of course.

I would say his arguments are specious... (5, Insightful)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218737)

...except he didn't make any. His rhetoric boils down to "Environmentalism is good. Looking at the Earth from the Moon helped kickstart environmentalism. Therefore we shouldn't mine the moon." It's a non-sequitur on the order of the Chewbacca Defense. He expects that yelling "Environmentalism!" will cause enough knees to jerk to sway opinion without actually making any arguments. (The sad thing is he may be right, given as how many people treat environmentalism as the new religion. [crichton-official.com] )

Are we to avoid mining the moon because it will harm the native lifeforms? Oh yeah, there aren't any.

Do we need to invent the word "rock-hugger"?

Re:I would say his arguments are specious... (4, Interesting)

sheepweevil (1036936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219039)

I risk going off-topic here, but people whom most would describe as 'rock huggers' exist already. They wish to prevent rock climbers from climbing on certain rock faces.

Rock climbers use 'chalk' that prevents hands from being sweaty, but it has the unfortunate side effect of putting white patches wherever there are handholds on the rock face. Also, one method of climbing a rock wall involves having metal pitons drilled into the rock. Some groups lobby to have rock climbers stop climbing in areas, or disallow them from placing pitons.

So I guess the argument in this case with the moon isn't about lifeforms, it is more about aesthetics; similar to the 'rock huggers' I have described. But I don't see how mass mining of the moon would have a visual effect on the moon's appearance for a very very long time.

Re:I would say his arguments are specious... (1, Insightful)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219219)

I agree with what you've said, just not the site you've linked. Crichton is not a scientist and spreads FUD about climate change, just from the opposite blindsided viewpoint.

running the numbers (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218741)

Last time there was a story about moon mining, they had some stats on the density of the isotope they're looking for and it would take so much more energy to just mine it let alone go there and get it and bring it back, that you might as well just strap the rocket engine to a turbine instead of bringing the stuff back to a nuclear plant. It wouldn't even be remotely efficient if we had a city on the moon to run just that off rare isotopes because the density of it in the soil is so ridiculously low.

mining the numbers (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219067)

In the equatorial crust, He3 is about 1 part per 100 million. As best I recall, De/He3 fusion is about 5 million times as energetic - per weight - as coal. But on earth, we mine coal if it is 1 part in 20.

Re:running the numbers (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219129)

Getting stuff back from the Moon is relatively cheap. You could even pack the isotope into large artillery shells and fire them towards Earth.

Or maybe even build a giant railgun-style lanucher given all the free iron/silicon minerals and solar energy out there.

Re:running the numbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219183)


Getting stuff back from the Moon is relatively cheap. You could even pack the isotope into large artillery shells and fire them towards Earth.

Or maybe even build a giant railgun-style lanucher given all the free iron/silicon minerals and solar energy out there.


Cool. I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress too. I loved the book ... but realized that it is FICTION.

(not saying the technology is impossible, or even a bad idea, just that assuming that something that has never been done before would be "relatively cheap" just because it is easy for fictional characters to use in a fictional future ... that's nuts)

Re:running the numbers (3, Insightful)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219235)

You could even pack the isotope into large artillery shells and fire them towards Earth.

Which still doesn't solve the main problem. We don't have Helium 3 fusion yet. And we aren't likely to for years. We'll probably have flying cars and Duke Nukem Forever first.

We haven't even gotten the easiest fusion reactions working yet to the point where they will generate a net gain of electricity.

Short-sighted world rapers (5, Funny)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218775)

If you let the helium out, it will stop floating up in the sky. Guess where it will fall.

Screw volcanoes; some people say the dinosaurs died because they had no space program. Maybe they died because they did have one, and made the same type of arrogant mistake.

Re:Short-sighted world rapers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218815)

Clearly with unreined Science did the dinousaurs learn what No Dino Was Meant To Know.

Self-hatred (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21218783)

Everywhere humans go you get shopping malls and brainless people beating each other to death. Most thinking people want us to extinct ourselves peacefully here on earth before we screw up another place.

Mr Moonbeam (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218825)

Earth's sister has played a role in teaching us to value our environment: how extraordinary to think that the next giant leap for the environmental movement might be a campaign to stop state-sponsored mining companies chomping her up in glorious privacy, a quarter of a million miles from our ravaged home.

He doesn't even give a reason why the environmental movement might want to stop mining the Moon. Maybe he thinks environmentalism is about "pretty Nature, don't hurt her", rather than survival and legacy, but he doesn't even say so.

The only argument his protest makes about mining the Moon is in favor: mining the He-3 would reduce the need to damage the Earth producing energy here.

There might be an argument for science preserving the layout of the Lunar surface for study (eg, the record of impact angles and composition which accumulate billions of years of astrophysical history), but there are technical solutions to that problem, and he doesn't even mention them (except some handwaving about lacking "science" in our goals).

That is the kind of taking "environmentalism's" name in vain that gives legitimate environmentalism a bad name.

Flawed Philosophy (5, Insightful)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218831)

This is a very harmful idea. A certain amount of environmentalism makes sense; disrupting ecosystems can have harmful repercussions, as can running out of non-renewable resources, etc.

But this idea of preserving the lunar environment seems to me to be based on the idea that objects are better left untouched by humanity. That things should be left untouched, even when it is detrimental to humanity, and no worse than neutral to our ecosystem. This is the type of nonsense that, in the extreme, calls for humanity to let itself go extinct, so as to stop our plundering of the Earth.

Nothing in nature is a value, without something living that gives it that worth.

Re:Flawed Philosophy (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219197)

The only thing I can even imagine would be a difference in tidal forces, but I doubt we would even be able to MOVE enough matter off the moon for that to make a difference. This is really a non-story beyond exposing that some will extend their ideologies to settings where they do not apply, without even stating what we should look into in terms of why.

Forget environmentalism-what about Int'l Relations (4, Insightful)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219207)

I don't think environmentalism is the important issue here. I'm more interested in what impact the economic development of the moon will have on international relations.

Whose moon is it? Of course we have treaties, but when a company starts mining up there, you can bet the profits aren't going to be distributed very widely. Besides the ethical implications of this, how are other states going to react to an American or Chinese company mining a resource that used to be considered off-limits and belonging to all, until it was convenient for that to no longer be the case? Is this just a case of first come, first serve capitalism? There are more things at stake here than just environmentalism.

Re:Forget environmentalism-what about Int'l Relati (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219315)

I don't think environmentalism is the important issue here. I'm more interested in what impact the economic development of the moon will have on international relations.

Now, that's a more reasonable concern. I think it's a problem that needs solved, but it's not an insolvable problem. I would imagine that by the time we can really begin raping the moon's resources in appreciable quantities, there will be some political guidelines in place.

Re:Flawed Philosophy (1)

bugnuts (94678) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219247)

Keeping the moon "pristine" is not a flawed philosophy. It's valid, but any sort of ecological basis is certainly flawed... there's little ecology to be preserved on the moon. In 100,000 years or so, it might even be torn apart by tidal forces and become a ring around the earth.

The valid basis is one the article scorned. That basis is "beauty," not some fear of technology. It's based on the natural tendency of people to exploit, and to destroy. And especially destructive are those seeking riches, either physical or spiritual. History will support this.

The destruction of species often has little effect on me. Would I care if the spotted owl suddenly disappeared? Not really. But the spotted owl is really just a pumped up victim for the habitat that was being destroyed. And the people that live and love the area want everyone's grandchildren to be able to see and appreciate it, and want to preserve the beauty of that habitat.

Would I care if the moon suddenly became less beautiful? Yes. Yes I would. If I have to look up and see the moon obscured in never-settling dust from mining, the childhood memories I had of looking at the craters in clear view with a 100x telescope could never be experienced by the next couple generations. And I suspect that's the real "environmental" reasons. Some things are more important to people than making a buck.

Simple solution (3, Insightful)

rossdee (243626) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218857)

Lets mine the far side of the moon, where it won't be seen by those on earth.

Re:Simple solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219167)

Heck, we don't even have to tell any one. Just make up some story about renewable resources. We can eve say that we have orbiting power collectors in space, and not bother to say that they are ON THE MOON.

Re:Simple solution (4, Funny)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219343)

Lets mine the far side of the moon, where it won't be seen by those on earth.

There are people who would consider that not just raping the Moon Goddess, but anally raping the Moon Goddess.

(P.S.: In before rule 34!)

Ummmm. o-kay. (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218859)

This guy proves once and for all that for some elements (not ALL, damnit - just some), it isn't about preserving an ecosystem or conserving species, but about absolute and unrelenting self-hatred for the human species.

Seriously - if it was an argument about contributing to space junk (which can be a hazard to life and limb), or an argument about leaving nascent life (like, say, on Europa or Titan) alone to develop, play... I can grok those arguments.

But the ones presented? ...it's the friggin' Moon! There ain't jack shit for life or biomass there! The only non-commercial value it currently has offhand are the Apollo landing sites (for historical value), and that's it!

IMHO, tear that bastard up if it generates commerce, gives us extra space to live, acts as an astronomical platform, and more importantly, if it takes humankind that much closer to becoming a space-faring race. It's not like we'll reduce its mass enough to really worry about instability (at least not within the next billion years or so), and it's (IMHO) free and open for the taking - belonging (nor should it ever belong) to no earth-bound nation.

/P

Belonging to no eath-bound nation? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219007)

Gee, that's a nice sentiment, but history says that the moon belongs to whoever can get the most weapons up there first.

Another crater (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218885)

I guess he is worried that the moon will have another crater or two. Actually it may be nice if he and all his followers and sympathisers would go to the moon and leave us here on earth alone.

What environment? (5, Insightful)

SKorvus (685199) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218895)

I am an very environmentally-conscious person: walking, biking or transit, no car. Vegan. Local, preferably organic produce. Buy used goods where-ever possible, make do or repair rather than buying. I give that as background, so that it's clear I'm not a typical consumer that thinks my personal desires outweigh impact to the environment.

That that said, I must ask: what environment? The moon is a lifeless, barren hunk of rock. All that has ever occurred in its history, is being pummeled by countless meteors to create a scarred and pulverized surface. There is no environment to protect, only dust and rocks. And as pristine and spartan beauty that may be, there's simply no one to admire it.

Right now, the universe appears devoid of life, except on our tiny blue rock, and it's always in danger of being snuffed out by one stray asteroid. Getting humanity up into space is the best thing we can do, for us, and for the Earth. Where we go, we will bring life with us. We will create new environments on any planets we settle. We are the seed by which Earth's life can spread throughout the galaxy.

Seeing lights glittering back at us from human settlements during a new moon shouldn't be viewed as a desecration of something worth saving, but the growth of new life where there was none before.

Chinese and indians said 2020 and it will HAPPEN (1)

holywarrior21c (933929) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218921)

It's Chinese this time and when they say they are gonna do it they will make it before everybody else. I mean it scares me. In a decade, China's economy will be bigger than United States, that is for sure. and they can dedicate little portion of their economy but it will still be billions of dollars that most other first world nations can't afford: because we have other things in priority such as taking care of poverty and improving welfare. Their govnt decide what is priority. not the way that is decided here. As soon as someone discovers great economic benefit from exploiting moon every rats will get on the cheese party. think about the disputes that we are already having. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html
so now we gotta jump on space race, gotta have middle east in control as well as maintain bases in over 130 nations and gotta homeland security wow. the future seems real damn exciting.
My point is that America must not get behind. it's catch the flag game. If they get there they win. We have enough problem in the earth already.

And If We Don't... (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#21218945)

And if we don't plunder the Moon, what happens? It sits up there in pristine condition for what -- forever?

Just look at all the beautiful He3. Isn't it beautiful? Aren't you glad your daddy stopped them from plundering the Moon of all of it so that we can almost enjoy this unspoiled view of it through the completely polluted atmosphere of Earth because we never got that clean energy source from up there?

Yeah, right! There are some real clowns in the world, and the guy against this qualifies as two of them when weighted in the average of clown foolishness.

Re:And If We Don't... (1)

onemorechip (816444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219177)

Pristine? FTA: Not that the Moon can be actually said to be pristine. After being formed billions of years ago, the Moon has been subject to bombardment by meteors, asteroids, and comets that has left craters and other scars on its surface.

I think the author has about as much understanding of the meaning of "pristine" as Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens [thinkexist.com] .

Envirowhiners (1)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219017)

There is an element in the environmentalist movement that basically hates humanity and human progress. A deep-seated loathing rests within those individuals.

Not the entire movement by any means, but there is an element.

Economic development of the Moon would be a glorious thing. Turning that barren lump of rock into an engine of progress, a spring board for the colonization of other planets and perhaps other solar systems one far off day.

we don't have what it takes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219023)

we'd rather have far bigger cars, houses and more bling

the moon is just too far for the likes of us greedy lazy losers

Falacy (2, Interesting)

femto (459605) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219025)

The rebuttal is based on the fallacy that without life environmental protection has no merit. If an environment is devoid of life it is still an environment. The land itself is worthy of protection. It's something Australia's aborigines have been pointing out for years, that their land has intrinsic value. Most of the rest of Australia has taken the moon mining viewpoint and desecrated the land in the name of development.

From a purely selfish human point of view there might also come a day when people want to visit that untouched environment.

Weapons of Helium 3 destruction (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219027)

This quest for Helium 3 and water on the moon sounds like a quest for WMD. They're not going to find anything. The real value of the moon is space for humans to live on. We're out of space on Earth.

Controlled Demolition (1)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219037)

I couldn't care less if we blasted it into a ring structure for easy collection. Goodness, it's a ROCK! ...Imagine the fireworks of that blast, amazing if we pulled it off. Ridiculously short sighted of we kill ourselves in the process.

Re:Controlled Demolition (1)

newgalactic (840363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219065)

Woops, I forgot about tides. We and the eco-system might miss those.

Re:Controlled Demolition (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219119)

Now that is the sort of thing that would cause the 'disruption of tides and weather' arguments that others have brought up.

Um... (1)

stranger_to_himself (1132241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219103)

Where in the Guardian article does Smith claim that mining the moon is bad? He just points out that it is the likeliest cause for renewed interest in moon missions and goes over a couple of the good and bad consequences. There's no argument in there either for or against. At least from reading the article I've decided moon mining is a pretty good idea.

Even the last sentence, which is jumped on by the AC article only describes a possible environmentalist reaction.

Control of distribution (2, Insightful)

Studio A (676180) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219127)

We already have a source of clean limitless power: solar. But anyone can generate it! On the other hand, the distribution of energy harvested from the moon would be a tightly controlled affair. Very lucrative.

Seriously? (1)

syncrotic (828809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219143)

It amuses me when people throw around the idea of mining Helium 3 from the moon. You might as well write a diatribe on the evils of using kittens as hydrocarbon fuel: nobody is seriously proposing that either.

According to wikipedia, the concentration of He-3 in lunar soil is estimated at 1ppm. 1ppm is an order of magnitude below an economically viable grade for mining gold or platinum on earth. For the sake of argument, lets assume that strip mining the moon would cost at least one hundred times more than strip mining an equivalent tonnage on earth - He3 now needs to be worth 1000 times more than gold to make the operation viable.

Since the mechanism of He3 deposition in lunar soil is by solar wind, it's highly unlikely that you'll find areas of increased concentration. Pick a spot on the moon, land there, and start mining several tons per day. Nevermind that the largest thing we've ever sent to the moon was a package of a lander barely big enough for three people and a dune buggy, and that it took a significant fraction of a nation's GDP to accomplish that.

You need to send up earth moving equipment, a Helium / Lunar Soil separator (not yet invented), an isotope separation plant, and a means to return the product to earth for use. Did I mention that we don't actually have the fusion technology to make use of it?

I don't know what's worse: that this guy took the time to write about the evils of lunar mining, or that if, against all odds, we made it a viable enterprise, people like him would fret over the altered aesthetics of a tiny patch of a completely lifeless rock.

a thought experiment about a thought experiment... (1)

david_bonn (259998) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219181)

The whole idea of Helium-3 mining is kind of loony.

At this point, we can't build any kind of practical fusion reactor, much less one that uses Helium-3 (which probably will be harder because the ignition temperature is quite a bit higher). And it won't be completely clean or efficient anyway because some of the intermediate reactions will still produce neutrons.

So we can't even know if this makes any sense from any economic or engineering standpoint because we don't yet know how a practical fusion reactor would work. But we also need to know how to make much more cost-efficient space launch systems before it is even feasible to mine lunar regolith for trace elements.

So, if we can make efficient launch systems, and if we can design fusion reactors that use Helium-3, it MIGHT be economically feasible to extract Helium-3 from the moon and use it to power those reactors. I'd point out that those two "ifs" aren't small ones, either. So the "environmental debate" is a thought experiment about a thought experiment about a thought experiment. It seems to me that there are much more pressing environmental problems than this, if you even allow that mining the moon is an environmental problem.

I'd also add that mining is typically a pretty low-profit margin business (yes, the absolute profits might be quite large, but the margins are quite low, especially when averaged over time). You need to lose money like an army of Web 2.0 startups for decades before you start making any money (that's even true of things like petroleum and natural gas that are riding high right now). I'd also add that you don't just go digging holes at random looking for gold or molybdenum or helium-3. On earth there are geologic processes that concentrate interesting stuff. I suspect that the moon hasn't had many of those geologic processes, or even very many good geologic processes at all for creating or concentrating useful stuff -- and that means that mining on the moon is even less likely to be economically feasible.

Re:a thought experiment about a thought experiment (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219357)

While not without it's technical challenges, You have a much hirer efficiency with He 3. A little over twis as much energy in a practical environment.
It also has nearly no waste byproducts from the fuel itself. The waste would be from maintenance. Considering the new nuclear designs that are in production, there won't be much waste from maintenance as well.

It's a good fuel.

We need a goal to do from the moon. Getting to the moon, creating these power plants and then...?
There are lots that can be done, but without having that planned it would just stagnate.

Actually the Japanese have on the drawing board self-contained nuclear power plants. You could send up the pieces and fuel, assemble it on the moon and that would be good for about 10-20 years.

It's just another liberal scam (-1, Troll)

domatic (1128127) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219223)

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!) Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you. Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "moon" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "moon" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "moon" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night! Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "moon" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the moon", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "moon" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

Not a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21219253)

We can just buy barren landscape offsets. For each acre of moon desolation that we disturb, we can torch one acre of Amazon rainforest.

Hard-core misanthropy (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219267)

Mr. Smith is an enemy of mankind. If he wants to freeze in the dark, he can do so to his heart's content.

-jcr

We'll meet you halfway -- literally (1)

Dirtside (91468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219271)

How about this as a compromise: We'll only mine/develop/harvest/rape the side of the moon that faces AWAY from Earth. That way he doesn't have to see it change from Earth. And since Luna has no atmosphere (and not enough gravity to ever hold one), there's no worry about pollution smogging up the near side, or (in general) effects generated on the far side from propagating to the near side.

Just kidding! I don't have any problem with developing the moon; this guy's wrong. Not that being careful custodians of our environment is a bad thing, but his "logic" is illogical.

We must protect it! (1)

popo (107611) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219281)


We must protect our lifeless, uninhabitable and toxic environments from our waste and pollution, lest they become er... lifeless, toxic and uh.. uninabitable... oh never mind.

Linked article author is troll... (3, Insightful)

Ardeaem (625311) | more than 6 years ago | (#21219299)

From the linked article:

One can be forgiven for suspecting that the true motives of environmentalists, whether they oppose mining the Moon, drilling for oil in Alaska, or building wind farms off Nantucket, involve less a love for the environment and more a hostility for technology itself.
I believe I speak for most environmentalists on Slashdot (having read the comments about this article) and most environmentalists in general (although I can't be sure) that the implication that environmentalists are just crazy Ludites is crazy in itself. Only someone completely cut off from average, everyday environmentalists would say such a thing. The evidence just on Slashdot is overwhelming; no one would say Slashdotters are hostile towards technology, and many (most?) could be described as environmentalists. This just doesn't square with reality.

Just because one (or a few) environmentalist has a (to us) wacky view, doesn't mean he represents the whole of environmentalists. The only reason you'd imply this is if you had an agenda, and the author of the linked article clearly does.
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