Lunar Resources

Is there a conflict between science and sustainability?

Meanwhile, there is a symposium on space settlement in DC today. You can follow the livestream.

[Late-afternoon update]

I know this is what you’ve all been waiting for: The Slate article about this crap.

Though most of the symposium was actually useful and interesting, ignoring the nonsense about colonialism in North America.

12 thoughts on “Lunar Resources”

  1. So, the argument is to not use the resources for the development of space, in favor of the future potential of some sort of benefit?

    Lets make a deal: We’ll set aside one deposit, and use the rest to get you to Mars…and the rest of the solar system.

    Or, FOAD.

  2. In the symposium on space studies, where they’re discussing early American parallels that might apply to colonizing space, I liked the parallels to the Dutch experience in New England. But after that, they had a person representing the indigenous American viewpoint, one who can’t stop talking about how the Aztecs and Mayans already had governments, and noting that we still call them aliens. That starts at around 43:00 and just keeps on going on into European supremacy, colonial mindsets, the structural failings of capitalism, and every other guilt trip they can toss on the pile.

  3. So, an article on Keeping Space Safe For Scientists

    and a symposium on Making Space Safe For Lawyers.


  4. From the update:

    Though most of the symposium was actually useful and interesting, ignoring the nonsense about colonialism in North America.

    I’m not so much worried about the colonialism stuff about North America as I am about what happened in Central America. It seems to me that Mars astronauts should use suits with a hard aluminum or titanium torso just in case they encounter some Martian Aztecs with obsidian blades who want to sacrifice them to their somewhat dimmer sun god, on the theory that the sun really should be a lot brighter.

    But it was actually a pretty entertaining segment to listen to, similar to listening to AOC’s latest profundities.

  5. How many sites on the Moon could be mined for water in the near term?

    How many sites are not mineable in near term but could have scientific interest?

    I would say no one has answer to either of these questions.

    Roughly, I would say a mineable lunar site, needs “easy access” to about 20,000 tons of water. Or easy access to 5000 tons might be not mineable and could of scientific interest.
    One could have easy access to 20,000 tons of lunar within 100 meter radius. But it’s possible one has easier access to 20,000 tons of water within 1 km radius as compared 20,000 ton within 100 meter radius.
    If have rich spots water on the top surface, it could be easier access of 20,000 tons within a 5 km radius.

    A square km at 1 meter depth is a million cubic meters of water ore.
    If 10% of volume is water, it’s 100,000 tons of water.
    No one can mine 100,000 tons of water within 10 years, or there is no market for 10,000 tons of water per year for first 10 years.
    Who need this much water. One could argue one sell this much rocket fuel, but require enormous amount energy [electrical power] to split 10,000 tons of water within 1 year.
    So just mining 10,000 tons of water per year is not too difficult, but who needs that much water. It seems at some price, someone would buy that much water.
    I think lunar water is worth $500 per kg. But in time the price of water will lower. So if pay $100 per kg, 10,000 tons of water is worth it. But if someone making 10,000 tons of water per year, and could same production rate the next year [or doubles the production] then have to know how much rocket fuel is going to made in the future. Or instead production of lunar water is 2000 tons per year and might get 10,000 tons of water within a few years, than it’s could be worth $100 per kg. Maybe even $200 or $300.
    If the there is an extraordinary amount buy able electrical power available at good price, then perhaps $500 per kg. Though still have huge problem of getting that much demand for rocket fuel within a relatively short period of time.
    But if lunar water is cheap to mine, starts at $100 per kg, it generally means one needs more things to mine, like iron.
    Another factor is mining volatiles other than water: H2, CO, CO2, CH4, etc.
    If mining Hydrogen and etc it’s energy, and don’t have this limitation of not having enough electrical power in the near term.

    It long assumed there is 2 billion tonnes of hydrogen in top meter of entire Lunar surface.
    Entire lunar surface: 37.9 million sq km / 2 billion tonnes =
    .01895 tons or 18.95 kg per square km.
    And only reason mentioning it, is the possibility of much higher abundance of it in lunar polar region.
    Or if mine a square km and meter deep and get 100,000 tons of water, if getting 20 kg of H2 during the ten years, it’s not much.
    But if getting thousands of tons of all the other volatiles [including H2], then it might be significant. But one might also get 100,000 tons of iron ore, which might be better.
    So if water is so easy to get that it’s $100 kg, in near you dealing water concentration in spots/pockets exceeding 20%.

    1. Rats, I did wrong way: 52.77 tonnes per square km
      And lunar pole in some areas, say 100 tonnes per square km.
      Or 1/1000th of water.
      Water at $500 per kg and hydrogen might be $4000 per kg. And all volatiles worth 1/100th of gross value of the water.
      whereas 100,000 tonnes of Iron could be worth 1/10th of the water gross value.
      Oh but doing volume and Iron ore is dense. Anyhow one could more concentration of Iron ore or more Iron oxide [oxygen worth more than iron] so maybe 1/5th of gross value. And same with other volatiles and might be even better than 1/5th of gross value of water.
      And when talking about 100,000 tons of water, the first 50,000 tons could worth more as twice as much as second 50,000 tons. and carbon could increase in value, and hydrogen not losing as much value as oxygen or water.

  6. Maybe we are missing something here. I’d bet Elon’s tunnel boring machine will fit in one or two SHS launches. I have read a lot about mining lunar or martian ore, but very little about how it will be done. Pick axes, rock hammers, and shovels do not mix well with space suits. But an underground tunnel, pressurized, heated, cooled, and lit would make it possible. Now that might be sustainable.

    1. I would say that tunnel boring machine use is a lot different on Mars and Moon. Or on Earth you can’t really go deep. You have water table and it’s pressure and it simply quite warm below 1 km.
      Anyhow with Moon or Mars the max depth probably exceeds 10 km.

      But I think in near term it will be focused on the surface of both Mars and Moon.
      I think you we have swimming pools on the Moon and lakes on Mars before anyone starts any serious tunneling.
      Swimming pools on Moon are for hotels and lakes on Mars are to live under them.
      I think once you get a lot industrialization, you get large domes at and large areas underground. But I think living under a lake is cheaper way getting breathable living areas. But could be considered “old fashion” 50 year later.
      A problem with Mars is having cheap water and cheap power.
      I think a Mars “homestead” will involve securing large amount of cheap water. At min, 2000 tons per year for 10 years, 20,000 tons per person. And could store it in a lake and live in the lake.

      So if I going to Mars and I say I want 20.000 tons of available water where I am live, how how does it cost?
      If do the same anywhere on Earth the answer is about $1000. Whether it’s well or connecting the water mains. If I want live by a lake or river, it could be a lot more.
      If water is $10 per kg or $10,000 per ton, it’s 200 million dollars.
      And anywhere on Mars with a 1/10th of the price, would be more appealing.
      And liquid water might better than frozen ice. Drinkable water better than water that needs to be purified to drink. But toxic frozen mud would be better than nothing- assuming there was a plan to somehow make it drinkable water.

      So if pump water from the ground and fill a lake {the bigger the better] and say it had frozen surface but liquid beneath the surface, that would be good real estate to buy on Mars. Or real estate includes water. And idea is to live under the water.
      Now you could have a meter of frozen ice as your roof and make something like a ice hotel, ie:
      But I am thinking having “roof” melted so liquid and living under water. And living water with 1/3 of Mars gravity gives 1/3rd the pressure of living under water on Earth. On Earth 10 meter depth gives 14.7 psi. And with mask one can breath at about 2 1/2 psi pressure. And plants could need less pressure to live. Or fish, at enough depth and oxygen in water, can live in the water.

      And if water is about $10 per kg, one sort of has building material at about $10 per kg- if going to do something like ice hotel thing.
      And of course it’s radiation shielding. Can be transparent. And with other actual typical building materials- if you these building pressurized it could cheaper putting them underwater.
      And of course water has high specific heat and can maintain a more constant temperature during the night. And plants can land plants or water plants.

      So this is sort of opposite of water on the Moon. With moon in beginning can’t use much water. With Mars one can use vast quantities of water, in the beginning. Or you basically selling from the start millions of tons of water [if you can mine it, or can merely prove you able to mine in future, at cheap price].

      1. If there is vast amount of water on Moon, one do similar thing as lakes on Mars. You need a dome which provide as much or perhaps a bit more pressure as is on Mars. And put small lake in it.

        Or problem is that Mars has the CO2 and nitrogen in large amounts and has vast land areas which one grow food.
        Mars seems like better place for farming business and Moon better as industrial location.
        I also think Mars better location to mine space rocks.

  7. You could keep all the lunar ice at the poles, the ice in the lava tubes will be more accessible and less likely to be contaminated with organics.

  8. The “organics” in lunar polar ice are likely to contain carbon, hydrogen and even nitrogen. Why would you want to avoid them?

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