The Moon as a Fuel Depot

There are good reasons to mine the Moon. Ice will supply water and oxygen for life, and hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. Aluminum and other metals can be extracted and formed into basic building block materials for construction. But both the ice and the building materials will be mostly thrown out into space for use in building, sustaining, and propelling space “habi-crafts”, a blend of habitat and spacecraft. The habicrafts will be both home and vehicle to the wayfarers who travel from the moon out into the asteroid belt. The building materials and ice supplied by the Moon will create a jumping off point for a wave of emigration from Earth.

Might a ‘Gold Rush’ on the Moon Trigger the Next Epic Space Race? – [singularityhub.com]

It’s now thought there’s somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion tonnes of ice at the Moon’s south pole and another 600 million tonnes at the north pole. And one private firm, Shackleton Energy Company, says it aims to mine lunar water.

Why? To stock low-Earth orbit gas stations with Moon-made rocket fuel.

Because of Earth’s gravity, it’s very expensive to drag fuel into orbit. At one-sixth the gravity of Earth, it’s much more economical to bring fuel up from the lunar surface. The firm says it would send water or ice to orbital depots in low-Earth orbit and once there, through electrolysis, convert it to liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen on demand.

Occurence and Sources of Aluminum on the Moon – [asi.org]

Aluminum composes 10% of the atoms and 13% of the mass of lunar highland regolith, being the third most abundant element. In the mare basins, aluminum makes up only 4.5% of the atoms and 5% of the weight, strongly suggesting the use of highland feedstocks for aluminum extraction.

Regolith, The “Other” Lunar Resource – [airspacemag.com]

Eventually, we may be able to export these lunar building materials into space. A major drawback is the gravity well of the Moon – its escape velocity is about 2.38 km/s, smaller than that of the Earth but substantial. To use large quantities of lunar materials for space construction, we need to develop an inexpensive means to get material off its surface. Fortunately, the small size and no atmosphere of the Moon make this possible by literally throwing stuff off the Moon into space. A “ mass driver” can launch objects off the lunar surface by accelerating them along a rail track using electromagnetic coils that hurl capsulated material into space at specific velocities and directions. We can collect such thrown material at a convenient location, such as one of the libration points. From there, it is a relatively simple matter to send the material to wherever it is needed in cislunar space.

Water remains the most important first lunar product, but the “other” lunar material regolith is almost as important. Lunar rock and soil will be the paving stones of the Solar System. As once all roads led to Rome, all new roads in cislunar space lead to – and from – the Moon.

SEE ALSO:
Refueling in Space Means Staying There
Asteropolis Cities in Space
Homesteading in the Asteroid Belt
Printing Space Habitats
Stepping Stones to Space
Space Vehicles

Comments are closed.