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Hydrae
10-15-2004, 01:06 PM
:thumb:

http://popularmechanics.com/science/space/2004/10/mining_moon/

Mining The Moon
An Apollo astronaut argues that with its vast stores of nonpolluting nuclear fuel, our lunar neighbor holds the key to Earth's future.
BY HARRISON H. SCHMITT

A sample of soil from the rim of Camelot crater slid from my scoop into a Teflon bag to begin its trip to Earth with the crew of Apollo 17. Little did I know at the time, on Dec. 13, 1972, that sample 75501, along with samples from Apollo 11 and other missions, would provide the best reason to return to the moon in the 21st century. That realization would come 13 years later. In 1985, young engineers at the University of Wisconsin discovered that lunar soil contained significant quantities of a remarkable form of helium. Known as helium-3, it is a lightweight isotope of the familiar gas that fills birthday balloons.

Small quantities of helium-3 previously discovered on Earth intrigued the scientific community. The unique atomic structure of helium-3 promised to make it possible to use it as fuel for nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun, to generate vast amounts of electrical power without creating the troublesome radioactive byproducts produced in conventional nuclear reactors. Extracting helium-3 from the moon and returning it to Earth would, of course, be difficult, but the potential rewards would be staggering for those who embarked upon this venture. Helium-3 could help free the United States--and the world--from dependence on fossil fuels.

That vision seemed impossibly distant during the decades in which manned space exploration languished. Yes, Americans and others made repeated trips into Earth orbit, but humanity seemed content to send only robots into the vastness beyond. That changed on Jan. 14, 2004, when President George W. Bush challenged NASA to "explore space and extend a human presence across our solar system."

It was an electrifying call to action for those of us who share the vision of Americans leading humankind into deep space, continuing the ultimate migration that began 42 years ago when President John F. Kennedy
first challenged NASA to land on the moon. We can do so again. If Bush's initiative is sustained by Congress and future presidents, American leadership can take us back to the moon, then to Mars and, ultimately, beyond.

Although the president's announcement did not mention it explicitly, his message implied an important role for the private sector in leading human expansion into deep space. In the past, this type of public-private cooperation produced enormous dividends. Recognizing the distinctly American entrepreneurial spirit that drives pioneers, the President's Commission on Implementation of U.S. Space Exploration Policy subsequently recommended that NASA encourage private space-related initiatives. I believe in going a step further. I believe that if government efforts lag, private enterprise should take the lead in settling space. We need look only to our past to see how well this could work. In 1862, the federal government supported the building of the transcontinental railroad with land grants. By the end of the 19th century, the private sector came to dominate the infrastructure, introducing improvements in rail transport that laid the foundation for industrial development in the 20th century. In a similar fashion, a cooperative effort in learning how to mine the moon for helium-3 will create the technological infrastructure for our inevitable journeys to Mars and beyond.

A REASON TO RETURN
Throughout history, the search for precious resources--from food to minerals to energy--inspired humanity to explore and settle ever-more-remote regions of our planet. I believe that helium-3 could be the resource that makes the settlement of our moon both feasible and desirable.

Although quantities sufficient for research exist, no commercial supplies of helium-3 are present on Earth. If they were, we probably would be using them to produce electricity today. The more we learn about building fusion reactors, the more desirable a helium-3-fueled reactor becomes.

Researchers have tried several approaches to harnessing the awesome power of hydrogen fusion to generate electricity. The stumbling block is finding a way to achieve the temperatures required to maintain a fusion reaction. All materials known to exist melt at these surface-of-the-sun temperatures. For this reason, the reaction can take place only within a magnetic containment field, a sort of electromagnetic Thermos bottle.

Initially, scientists believed they could achieve fusion using deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen found in seawater. They soon discovered that sustaining the temperatures and pressures needed to maintain the so-called deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction for days on end exceeded the limits of the magnetic containment technology. Substituting helium-3 for tritium allows the use of electrostatic confinement, rather than needing magnets, and greatly reduces the complexity of fusion reactors as well as eliminates the production of high-level radioactive waste. These differences will make fusion a practical energy option for the first time.

It is not a lack of engineering skill that prevents us from using helium-3 to meet our energy needs, but a lack of the isotope itself. Vast quantities of helium originate in the sun, a small part of which is helium-3, rather than the more common helium-4. Both types of helium are transformed as they travel toward Earth as part of the solar wind. The precious isotope never arrives because Earth's magnetic field pushes it away. Fortunately, the conditions that make helium-3 rare on Earth are absent on the moon, where it has accumulated on the surface and been mixed with the debris layer of dust and rock, or regolith, by constant meteor strikes. And there it waits for the taking.

An aggressive program to mine helium-3 from the surface of the moon would not only represent an economically practical justification for permanent human settlements; it could yield enormous benefits back on Earth.

LUNAR MINING
Samples collected in 1969 by Neil Armstrong during the first lunar landing showed that helium-3 concentrations in lunar soil are at least 13 parts per billion (ppb) by weight. Levels may range from 20 to 30 ppb in undisturbed soils. Quantities as small as 20 ppb may seem too trivial to consider. But at a projected value of $40,000 per ounce, 220 pounds of helium-3 would be worth about $141 million.

Because the concentration of helium-3 is extremely low, it would be necessary to process large amounts of rock and soil to isolate the material. Digging a patch of lunar surface roughly three-quarters of a square mile to a depth of about 9 ft. should yield about 220 pounds of helium-3--enough to power a city the size of Dallas or Detroit for a year.

Although considerable lunar soil would have to be processed, the mining costs would not be high by terrestrial standards. Automated machines, perhaps like those shown in the illustrations on the lead page, might perform the work. Extracting the isotope would not be particularly difficult. Heating and agitation release gases trapped in the soil. As the vapors are cooled to absolute zero, the various gases present sequentially separate out of the mix. In the final step, special membranes would separate helium-3 from ordinary helium.

The total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about $15 billion. The International Thermonuclear Reactor Project, with a current estimated cost of $10 billion for a proof-of-concept reactor, is just a small part of the necessary development of tritium-based fusion and does not include the problems of commercialization and waste disposal.

The second-generation approach to controlled fusion power involves combining deuterium and helium-3. This reaction produces a high-energy proton (positively charged hydrogen ion) and a helium-4 ion (alpha particle). The most important potential advantage of this fusion reaction for power production as well as other applications lies in its compatibility with the use of electrostatic fields to control fuel ions and the fusion protons. Protons, as positively charged particles, can be converted directly into electricity, through use of solid-state conversion materials as well as other techniques. Potential conversion efficiencies of 70 percent may be possible, as there is no need to convert proton energy to heat in order to drive turbine-powered generators. Fusion power plants operating on deuterium and helium-3 would offer lower capital and operating costs than their competitors due to less technical complexity, higher conversion efficiency, smaller size, the absence of radioactive fuel, no air or water pollution, and only low-level radioactive waste disposal requirements. Recent estimates suggest that about $6 billion in investment capital will be required to develop and construct the first helium-3 fusion power plant. Financial breakeven at today's wholesale electricity prices (5 cents per kilowatt-hour) would occur after five 1000-megawatt plants were on line, replacing old conventional plants or meeting new demand.

NEW SPACECRAFT
Perhaps the most daunting challenge to mining the moon is designing the spacecraft to carry the hardware and crew to the lunar surface. The Apollo Saturn V spacecraft remains the benchmark for a reliable, heavy-lift moon rocket. Capable of lifting 50 tons to the moon, Saturn V's remain the largest spacecraft ever used. In the 40 years since the spacecraft's development, vast improvements in spacecraft technology have occurred. For an investment of about $5 billion it should be possible to develop a modernized Saturn capable of delivering 100-ton payloads to the lunar surface for less than $1500 per pound.

Returning to the moon would be a worthwhile pursuit even if obtaining helium-3 were the only goal. But over time the pioneering venture would pay more valuable dividends. Settlements established for helium-3 mining would branch out into other activities that support space exploration. Even with the next generation of Saturns, it will not be economical to lift the massive quantities of oxygen, water and structural materials needed to create permanent human settlements in space. We must acquire the technical skills to extract these vital materials from locally available resources. Mining the moon for helium-3 would offer a unique opportunity to acquire those resources as byproducts. Other opportunities might be possible through the sale of low-cost access to space. These additional, launch-related businesses will include providing services for government-funded lunar and planetary exploration, astronomical observatories, national defense, and long-term, on-call protection from the impacts of asteroids and comets. Space and lunar tourism also will be enabled by the existence of low-cost, highly reliable rockets.

With such tremendous business potential, the entrepreneurial private sector should support a return to the moon, this time to stay. For an investment of less than $15 billion--about the same as was required for the 1970s Trans Alaska Pipeline--private enterprise could make permanent habitation on the moon the next chapter in human history.

KingPriest2
10-15-2004, 01:09 PM
Don't tell this to Conspiracy Theorist Opps I mean Ali Chiefs.

Lzen
10-15-2004, 01:10 PM
Yep, I have a subscription to PM. Good stuff. :thumb: Very interesting stuff in there.

Crush
10-15-2004, 01:16 PM
Fools! Everyone knows that the moon is made out of cheese.

Hydrae
10-15-2004, 01:25 PM
So for $15 Billion in private funds we could be looking at a way to get off the petroleum teat. Figure 2 to 3 times as much doing it at the governmental level. So for about $30-45 B we could be looking at cleaner fuels for less money within a few years.

How much have we spent in Iraq so far? :hmmm:

ptlyon
10-15-2004, 01:26 PM
$15 Bil... YA RIGHT

mikey23545
10-15-2004, 01:40 PM
How much have we spent in Iraq so far? :hmmm:

How much have we spent financing crack whore welfare moms? :hmmm:

Nightfyre
10-15-2004, 01:43 PM
Bush will never let it through anyway... he has too much "invested" in oil.

ROYC75
10-15-2004, 01:49 PM
Oh great, go up there, mine away, create some type of disturbance in the solar system or gravity affect on the moon and we have a large problem on our hands !

Stay back and away !

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 01:51 PM
I'd like you to elaborate on this gravity "affect" we're somehow going to create.

jcl-kcfan2
10-15-2004, 01:51 PM
Bush will never let it through anyway... he has too much "invested" in oil.

So, is Ali Chiefs being replaced???

David.
10-15-2004, 01:53 PM
so, yah let's just bring it back with us next time we go. We can set it down in, canada or something.

Nightfyre
10-15-2004, 01:54 PM
So, is Ali Chiefs being replaced???
I dont do the political forum :p Im just saying bush will NEVER take anything away from oil because it hurts his investment. Dont worry, I dont like kerry either.

Hydrae
10-15-2004, 01:56 PM
I dont do the political forum :p Im just saying bush will NEVER take anything away from oil because it hurts his investment. Dont worry, I dont like kerry either.


Maybe we can convince him to get into helium3 to cover his losses. :D

Nightfyre
10-15-2004, 01:57 PM
Maybe we can convince him to get into helium3 to cover his losses. :D
That would be insider trading....

ROYC75
10-15-2004, 02:04 PM
I'd like you to elaborate on this gravity "affect" we're somehow going to create.

I really don't know, but if we were to some how screw up the gravity affect the moon has around the earth, it's going to cause alot of problems.

I don't have a clue on how it could, just that it better be explored throughly.

mikey23545
10-15-2004, 02:25 PM
I really don't know, but if we were to some how screw up the gravity affect the moon has around the earth, it's going to cause alot of problems.

I don't have a clue on how it could, just that it better be explored throughly.

You're not a physics major, are you?

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 02:35 PM
You're not a physics major, are you?
I'm officially walking away from this one.

I have no idea what the hell he's trying to get at.

jiveturkey
10-15-2004, 02:45 PM
I thought that this was more info on the anal gangbang???

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 02:47 PM
I thought that this was more info on the anal gangbang???
Damn you. I was so thinking about switching to a Quagmire avy today.

Guess I'll stick with Raymer for awhile.

ROYC75
10-15-2004, 02:49 PM
I'm officially walking away from this one.

I have no idea what the hell he's trying to get at.

That's good, casue I know I haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about either.

Physics .... I never had a class in it.


Again, my only concern is , Can said mining cause dust, extra particals into space ?

Can any blasting weaking the moons structure ? Can some type of problem come from this altering the gravity affect ?

I don't know.

We know more about the moon now than before, but it wasn't too long ago we knew very little to nothing about it .


Just a few questions I know nothing about .

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 02:50 PM
Eh, it's a rock floating around. What else is there to know?

Nightfyre
10-15-2004, 02:51 PM
It would be a big rock if it fell to earth....

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 02:52 PM
It would be a big rock if it fell to earth....
I can't wait to see the amateur home video of THAT!

jiveturkey
10-15-2004, 02:54 PM
Damn you. I was so thinking about switching to a Quagmire avy today.

Guess I'll stick with Raymer for awhile.I think that there's room for two Quagmire's.


http://thedrunkenclam.com/wallpapers/please-640x480.gif

Nightfyre
10-15-2004, 02:54 PM
I can't wait to see the amateur home video of THAT!
It would be Armageddon all over again.

jiveturkey
10-15-2004, 02:59 PM
That's good, casue I know I haven't a clue as to what I'm talking about either.

Physics .... I never had a class in it.


Again, my only concern is , Can said mining cause dust, extra particals into space ?

Can any blasting weaking the moons structure ? Can some type of problem come from this altering the gravity affect ?

I don't know.

We know more about the moon now than before, but it wasn't too long ago we knew very little to nothing about it .


Just a few questions I know nothing about .I think that we'll be safe even if we mine the moon for decades on end, which wouldn't be nessesary with advanced on energy technology.

Extra dust will be held back by the small amount of gravity that the moon has and anything that escapes wouldn't be even close to noticable. A meteor would cause a lot more of a dust problem than we ever could.

I don't know anything about the moons intrenal structure but I would think that this is a surface mining operation so we should be safe on that front as well.


I don't really know anything about any of this but someone told that I'm smart one time and I'm running with it.

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 03:00 PM
I think that there's room for two Quagmire's.


http://thedrunkenclam.com/wallpapers/please-640x480.gif
If Phil hadn't deleted BrainCase's thread, you could've learned a valuable lesson that would've prevented this unfortunate incident.

Rausch
10-15-2004, 03:04 PM
It would be a big rock if it fell to earth....

The moon is very slowly moving AWAY from earth. We would be more likely to move it further away, since that's the momentum it already has going, not towards earth.

On top of that the force necessary to change its orbit is enormous. Not going to happen.

Rausch
10-15-2004, 03:05 PM
I don't really know anything about any of this but someone told that I'm smart one time and I'm running with it.

Yeah, but how smart was he?

ENDelt260
10-15-2004, 03:08 PM
Yeah, but how smart was he?
When a smart person tells me I'm smart, I figure they're just patronizing me.

I only accept compliments from dunces.

jiveturkey
10-15-2004, 03:09 PM
Yeah, but how smart was he?Not very. :(