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Space Science

Mining On The Moon 339

Posted by Hemos
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
The Night Watchman writes "This article on Yahoo News outlines the latest plans in the works for a handful of private companies to begin lunar mining missions within the next 10 years."
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Mining On The Moon

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  • So now we are done killing our environment with strip mining, now we are gonna kill the moon's (I know, the moon has no environment.)
  • As anyone who works in automation engineering could tell you, getting it right the first time isn't always easy. Hopefully the moon mines will be programmable from earth and it would be easy to fix your way out of a jam.
    Getting Instrumentation & Electrical Techs up there might be a bit of a pain though.

    It would be much easier if we just found some Horta and hired them to work for us. But in a vacuum it might be tough on them...

  • by slittle (4150) on Sunday November 25, 2001 @11:55PM (#2611954) Homepage
    Who says who owns what when it comes to non-Earth bodies? I always thought the Moon was nobody's property/territory due to some international treaty. Mining the thing kinda implies someone does have claim/authority to it... nobody ever asked me if I want a big hole in our Moon.
    • by slittle (4150)
      oops, forgot the quote

      The United Nations (news - web sites)' 1979 Moon Treaty, one of several international outer space agreements, attempted to define the scope of private space activity. However, it was never ratified by some major powers such as Russia and the United States

      1979 was a looong time ago. Any news since then?
    • by jmp (84073)

      In practice, those with the money and technology to get there and mine it will be the owners.

      As to who owns which bits, it's going to be an interesting matter to sort out. Where and how will the "Moon Wars" be fought?

    • Additional articles discussing this are at cnn [cnn.com] and at reuters [reuters.com].
    • You mean it's this late into the topic, and someone has been asking on /. about who owns the moon, and the name David Delos Harriman hasn't come up, yet?

      (acknowledgments to R.A.H.)
  • Why not... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    crash the whole thing in Wyoming, and mine the elements from the pile of rubbles?
  • Customs (Score:2, Funny)

    by Banjonardo (98327)
    Hopefully they won't have to go through customs. [slashdot.org]

  • Ok, the Moon is obviously owned by no one. So is it first comes first serves? Could one company come along, buy up all the land and own the moon...? It could become the greatest advertising space of all time.
  • According to a FOX documentary NASA is a big conspiracy and we never landed on the moon.... of course its the most rediculous thing ive ever seen but just out of curiosity, how many people are pro-moon/anti-moon?

    did we land on the moon?
    • Those who believe that we never did land on the moon are a bunch of dipwads.. all of those conspiracy theories have been debunked, and the reasoning is on plenty sites out on the web.

      There was another show sometime after the FOX special that also went over each of the points brought up in the show.
    • just out of curiosity, how many people are pro-moon/anti-moon?


      To find out, take the number of Americans who live in trailer parks with a cross-section of those who think that Vince McMahon is god. That's your anti-moon people.

      The rest of humanity (or at least those capable of high school physics) would be the pro-moon people.

      • take the number of Americans who live in trailer parks with a cross-section of those who think that Vince McMahon is god.

        isn't that a bit like saying, take the number of Americans who live in Chicago with a cross-section of those who live in Illinois?

        -sam
  • Pointless Trivia (Score:2, Informative)

    by Beowulfto (169354)
    ``If there was a layer of gold a foot thick floating over the earth at an altitude at which we could send up a shuttle to go up and collect, it wouldn't be worth doing it,'' said Taylor.

    I love little bits of useless info.

  • This brings up a good question... Who actually owns the Moon? Obviously it is outside of any country, but the US did land there first. Perhaps it will be a land with no laws, but what if someone decides to destroy it? I'm sure people would object to it's destruction, or damaging in any way, but who should be responsible to protect it, or decide the laws governing it?
    • by not-quite-rite (232445) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:09AM (#2612002) Homepage Journal
      The moon should be treated the same way as Antarctica. There is a general agreement between all parties that set up a station there as to borders and the regulations.

      There would be a foundation to organise limits and rules for mining and also apply penalties to governments that do adhere to the regulations.

      But in the same sense, should we treat the moon as a unique habitat? Would it require wilderness protection?

      I know I would like to go there and enjoy the serenity.

      So much serenity.....
      • I know I would like to go there and enjoy the serenity.

        Umm, anyplace that doesn't have air will be VERY quiet. Even if they're testing atomic bombs on the moon, you won't hear a single thing... Very serene don't you think?

    • but who should be responsible to protect it, or decide the laws governing it?

      How about the people who live there? I dont know you could call them, what, citizens? And they could run the whole thing with a system of voting and stuff... call it Democracy maybe.

      The moon is owned by no one - regardless of who was there last.

      OT: Do you understand your .sig is offensive? Your preseident as a dim-witted xenophobe? This quote shows he most certainly is.

  • perhaps this is the fix I've been looking for.

    sure, osmium sounds really cool, but is it really all that terribly useful in the grand scheme 'o things? I would think the potential for titanium and iron might be more compelling than the rare earth stuff (so would they now be rare-moon elements?)...

    (and before someone starts quoting wonderous uses for osmium, remember, I am a chemist...)

    • I had to do an oral report on holmium in high school. There were something like a dozen references to holmium in my town's university library, and half of them were in Russian. Half the rest simply noted that holmium was named for Stockholm. The remaining three merely commented that holmium is an element (with various element properties) and that it is utterly devoid of practical benefit to human kind.

      My report was supposed to be seven minutes long...

      If there's holmium on the moon, we should devote our vast technological resources to conquering the ocean's inky mysterious depths!

      Yeah...so I'm bitter, Ok?

  • by darthBear (516970) <hactar@@@hactar...org> on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:04AM (#2611986)
    will not be as expensive as one may think. The trajectory would have to be calculated but thats what we have computers for. Basically put a cannon on the moon and shoot capsules filled with the stuff and a parachute to earth into a designated landing area. They would not even have to land that soft, just soft enough to avoid breaking apart.

    Only problem is if you miss but given the distance it has to fall the chute could likely steer the payload clear of any problems.

    • well by you're scheme it would still require a catcher of some sort. Getting it to earth isn't the hard part. Getting it to the right place on earth is the hard part. I mean we wouldn't want gigantic capsules landing everywhere from the plains of Africa to the top of buildings of Chicago. It would all have to be coordinated, and I think "catching" jetisoned capsules would be a bit harder than one would think. All in all you'd probably have to shoot it back to the earth of the intent of placing it in orbit until someone would figure out where to put it. It could be an organizational nightmare if multiple corperations started fighting over who got to put what where, and when.
    • How about this one.

      The moon's gravity is pretty minor compaired to Earth's. So we use a mechanized lunar base to create solar cells out of the silicon dioxide on the lunar crust and place them in protective cases. Then we use a mass driver or similar device to send them into Low Earth Orbit for use on space stations or other large projects. They could then also be brought back to earch during routine restocking missions to the ISS. This sort of think also might enable us to build space stations on the stable Lagrange points (which would facilitate getting people to a lunar or martian landing points).

      In essence, I would see the real potential not for mere mining (who wants to pay billions of dollars for gravel anyway, or even Platinum for that matter) but rather for manufacturing centers.
    • My main concern is what about foreign (non-earth based) microrganisms? Whose to say that there aren't any on the moon in some type of stasis that got there from the many impacts on the moon? The more stuff we bring down to Earth from space, the more chances get higher that something like this can happen. There may not be life on the surface, but that doesn't eliminate life being in stasis in the ground of the moon. I hope these companies take the right precautions because we all know how companies like to cut corners!
      • My main concern is what about foreign (non-earth based) microrganisms? There are plausible theories that life on Earth started with microorganisms from space, probably hitchhiking on meteors. Not to worry about new invaders. If it can survive lunar conditions, it can survive being blasted off the moon by a meteor impact, and entry into earth's atmosphere, so we've already been exposed to it, again and again. Competing successfully with the native earth life is a whole different matter -- an organism that is saddled with the vacuum- and radiation-proofing needed to survive in space is not going to compete where fast growth and high reproduction rates are the keys to species survival.
  • by Exmet Paff Daxx (535601) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:06AM (#2611994) Homepage Journal
    I think we all know the real problem with this idea of "moon mining": flooding the market with cheap, mechanically produced gemstones, allowing multinationals to reap an absurd profit by selling short. As many of you know, the "moon" is a myth.

    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.

  • by MathJMendl (144298) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:06AM (#2611995) Homepage
    I think we should finish screwing up our own planet first before we go on and screw up others. Slow and steady does the job.
  • if nothing else this might spur NASA into action. I believe that the moon is covered by international law in the same way that antartica is. should someone get there and start mining perhaps an international consortium will be tapped to monitor the mining, which could lead to a permanent outpost on the moon.
  • These companies have no right to do this to the moon. The whole universe was not put here so that we could carefully destroy planets one at a time. This topic has not even been placed up for debate before people have started to plan the moon's destruction! The action of these companies is reckless, as we need to more carefully manage our natural resources. These companies are simply looking for money, but it is ridiculous to think they have any right to go up and start chopping at the moon.

    On the other hand, efforts to colonize North America were often driven by (fruitless) attempts for money.
    • What exactly are they "destroying"? Rocks? A dust layer? Undistinguished landscapes?

      There's no life on the moon. None. Not even algae to get upset about dying. The only thing that even remotely affects life is the appearance of the moon, specifically the aldebo, and mining is unlikely to change THAT for a long time.

      The universe routinely "destroys" entire galaxies for no (known) good reason. Who cares if we pull some stuff out of the moon?

      *snort* "destroy the moon" ... jeez... come on! Engage that brain!
    • These companies have no right to do this to the moon. The whole universe was not put here so that we could carefully destroy planets one at a time.

      why not? if humankind can gain an advantage by mining the moon why not do it? i honestly don't see any reason why we shouldn't mine the moon.

    • The whole universe was not put here so that we could carefully destroy planets one at a time.

      Earth First!
      We'll mine the other planets later!
    • The whole universe was not put here so that we could carefully destroy planets one at a time.

      Let's clarify: The universe does not exist for a reason. It simply exists.

      We also have no intrinsic relationship with the universe, other than the fact that we are in it: it was here long before us and will mostly likely be here long after we're gone.

      (I say "mostly likely" because I'm confident but not positive that we -- humanity -- are never going away either, but people call me arrogant about this)

      The universe was not "put here" by anyone or for anyone. And even if it were, there is no way to know who did it or to what end. So stop being a dumass with your extra-terrestrial environmental alarmism.

      Now, let's get one defintion straight. In a non-judgmental (non-"workers-of-the-world-unite") definition, exploit [dictionary.com] means, simply: To employ to the greatest possible advantage

      I think that's exactly what we should do with the universe, go up there exploit the resources to our greatest advantage, bring stuff back here to improve the human lot, and repeat. That's what we do: we manipulate our enviroment to make our live's better That's why we have a gamecube and don't live in caves. We do everything we can to make our lives better.

      We often disagree on what "better" is -- and that's why we have Amish people who like things the way they were 200 years ago. That's fine. Go build a barn. But stay the fuck out of the way of the rest of us.

      We're not perfect. We screw things up. But, all in all, each generation is better off than the one before it. We live longer, we're healthier, we work less, etc. That's what we do.

      The universe is an infinitely big place. Remember, the Milky Way Galaxy could blink out of existence and the universe wouldn't bat an eye. We are not cosmic park rangers.

      So please pull your head out of your ass and get with the program: We have a lot of work to do.

      It'll probably be a centuries before we get out of this rinky-dink solar system. We've got to get busy putting people on the moon, on mars, on io, on europa, on venus. We've got asteroids to turn into space stations.

      And don't be a pussy about limited resources. Eventually, our sun will go red giant and fry all the inner planets to a crisp. That means all these precious resources have a built-in shelf-life already, no matter what we do.

      By then, we had better be somewhere else. If we have to suck all the gas out of Jupiter to give us the juice to do that, then so be it.

      Once we get off this puny planet, that's the scale of things. Hell, that's the beginning of the scales of things. The universe is infinite!

      Note: I could go on. I can be anti-corporate also. I didn't say *how* we should do this, only that we *should* -- now. And that business interests in and of themselves are not evil.
    • These companies have no right to do this to the moon. The whole universe was not put here so that we could carefully destroy planets one at a time.

      Heh.

      1.) The moon is not a planet
      2.) The universe was not "put here."

      Natural resources are there to be used. Since there is nothing on the moon to destroy, perhaps you should worry about earth's rainforests instead.

      -Legion

  • ``If we had sufficient money, then it's just a matter of getting the pieces together, getting a launch and we're there.''

    Sure, when you put it that way it all seems so perfectly reasonable! :)

  • by cybrpnk (94636) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:16AM (#2612026)
    The only thing worth mining on the moon is ice, if it really truly exists at the poles. The reason it is worth mining ice is that it can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis and then you've got fuel and oxidizer for a Mars mission located at the bottom of a shallow gravity well. It's been a while since I ran the numbers (I used to work for Boeing in an advanced projects group) but running a Mars mission with lunar fuel and oxidizer makes a BIG BIG BIG difference in the feasibility of it. Say you have a Mars ship in Earth or lunar orbit with empty tanks you've got to fill. From Earth you use the Shuttle, and it takes a full external tank and hundreds of millions of $$$ to get a Shuttle-cargo-bay-sized slug of liquids into your Mars ship tanks - many many shuttle missions and $$$ to fill them. It takes a LOT fewer pounds of fuel to lift the same hydrogen / oxygen from the surface of the moon to fill those same Mars ship tanks. It's the same as running a war - everybody wants to be on the tank that rolls into liberate the city, but in reality the war was won months before by the logistics and supply lines that made that final push possible. So remember, boys and girls - forget platinum group metals, the real lunar riches are its ICE...
    • The catch-22 with a lunar launched mission is the cost of getting equipment from the moon. Even if you merely lauch modular facilities to process regolith to construct a spaceship with that still counts as cost for a Mars mission. Mining ice on the Moon for a chemical rocket is dumb anyhow, Helium-3 is much energetic of a fuel and will get a craft to Mars in a much shorter timeframe. Furthermore you need not use the fucking space shuttle to build a Mars ship, that would be absolutely ludicrous, the SST is one of the most expensive fucking launch systems in use currently. It'd be cheaper to build a magnetic linear accelerator up the side of a mountain and shoot stuff into orbit.
      • Even if we had unlimited quantities of helium-3 sitting in tanks on Earth, we don't have the ability to do generate power with controlled fusion with it anyway. I think current guesses are that cost-effective fusion power plants, on Earth, using the deuterium-tritium reaction which is easier to do than D-He3, are at least a couple of decades away, so D-He3 space drives are probably at least 30-40 years away. It'd be nice to go to Mars before then.
        • I think that's far too conservative of an estimate for fusion powered spacecraft (technologically, politically it could be never when a fusion powered spacecraft is sent to another planet). The most energy efficient AFAIK fusion reactors we're researching are colliding beam fusion systems (Tokamak). These work really well fusing Deuterium-Tritium but can be used with Deuterium-Helium and Hydrogen-Boron fuels as well. The problem with Deuterium-Helium fusion is the near complete lack of He-3 on the Earth's surface. We're much too hot with too little gravity to hold onto Helium for very long in any form and our atmosphere blocks most of the cosmic rays that form it. The Moon however would be a good source of it since there's nothing protecting the regolith from cosmic ray bombardment. With CBF reactors once you get stable fusion with one fuel source most of your work is done in getting to use other fuel sources. I think cutting your timetable in half would be a little better of an estimate.
      • Well, if we wait for a portable fusion reactor and helium mining on the Moon before we mount a Mars mission, we aren't going to Mars for a long, long time. Plus, from an "ore" standpoint, lunar polar ice is thousands of times more concentrated than solar-wind depositied helium-3 and will be MUCH easier to get at. Plus, setting up an ice mining station is effectively setting up a moonbase, which isn't a waste of money in my book. Sending up Mars mission propellant on the Shuttle WOULD be a waste of money and I only meant that as an illustration of how hard it is to get stuff off Earth compared to off the Moon. That will still be true even with some sort of "big dumb cheap" booster. Although propellant is an ideal payload for some sort of "space gun" like you mention...
    • Although Ben Bova's _Welcome_to_Moonbase_ is approaching its 15th birthday, it remains a provocative look at commercial and scientific exploitation of the moon's resources.

      Commercially, the moon is a cheap source of materials needed for large-scale construction in space. Oxygen and aluminum are readily-available propellants. Aluminum is a good structural material, particularly in the moon's weaker gravity. Solar panels and reflectors can provide cheap heat and electricity. Metals can be refinend and oxygen extracted by melting lunar soil, capturing the escaping gases, and allowing the result to separate as it cools. The moon's atmosphere is almost nonexistent, providing a free vacuum several orders of magnitude better than the best commercial installations, and the thin atmosphere is very clean, virtually free of dust above one to two meters above the surface.

      The ability to cheaply manufacture and launch satellites, probes, and other vehicles means direct observation of planets, asteroids, and comets could be conducted many times more frequently. The moon, while it lacks the earth's large shock-absorbing core, is a geologically quiet base upon which to build a massive telescope or array, with the entire mass of the moon insulating it from the sun's radiation, and virtually no atmosphere to distort the image. Even the mere fact of having scientists in long-term direct contact with another solar body will enormously expand our knowledge of the universe. Studying the earth, we can only hope other places are similar, but studying the moon as well means we can make generalizations with much more confidence.

      I don't think any one company is rich enough to set up the infrastructure needed to be sustainable and commercially successful, and no government can dump that much money into a project with no short-term returns. We can only hope that several companies can cooperate either on one project or will develop complementary projects. If several groups are planning on trying to setup installations on the moon, it might be profitable for another organization to setup an installation whose sole purpose is to provide materials the others will need. A small automated facility which extracts oxygen from the soil could save a dozen other installations the expense of setting up their own oxygen plant. Another installation could extract only aluminum and sell that for construction of its neighbors, perhaps paying for its oxygen consumption in aluminum used to expand the oxygen extraction facility.

      I'll be the first to admit this sort of closed economy cannot sustain itself and must eventually reap some financial reward for the companies on earth, but cooperation between enterprises makes everyone's barrier to entry that much lower. As soon as the infrastructure is setup to mine and use materials from the moon, construction there should be immediately financially rewarding and should create a scientific and manufacturing boom. Once we reach that point, it's all downhill from there. The problem is the financial risk involved in getting to that point. Hopefully the lure of potentially vast riches will bring in the necessary funding.
      • The moon, while it lacks the earth's large shock-absorbing core, is a geologically quiet base upon which to build a massive telescope or array, with the entire mass of the moon insulating it from the sun's radiation, and virtually no atmosphere to distort the image.

        You do know that while the moon is locked in its rotation always to face the earth, the "dark side of the moon" rotates around the moon once every four weeks or so...

        And without an insulating atmosphere, the thermal stresses on your telescope as it crosses the terminator will be huge...

        There's probably an easy way to avoid this problem, but it's still there.

        --Blair
    • Interesting point.

      To think that a previous article had an expert advocating gravel mining on the moon...
    • "The reason it is worth mining ice is that it can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis and then you've got fuel and oxidizer for a Mars mission located at the bottom of a shallow gravity well."

      Excuse me? The energy you spend separating the hydrogen from the oxygen is slightly more than the energy you get combining them when you 'burn' the hydrogen. It's like saying we should make lots of rubber bands because we can stretch the rubber bands and then run our cars on them, or slingshot ourselves somewhere.

      Whatever energy you use could just as easily go directly into your vessel. Using solar power to split the water? Put solar panels on your rocket, or use a solar sail. Using nuclear fission? You had to get the materials for that up to the moon in the first place, might as well put them on your mars-bound rocket.

      There may be some source of energy in the moon, but it isn't going to be ice.
      • You don't need the hydrogen and oxygen as an energy source - you need it as mass to throw out the back of your rocket to get your rocket to move forward. You can have a great source of power - solar or nuclear or whatever - and if you ain't got mass to throw out the back, you ain't going nowhere. Using electricity to split the water into gases is merely to prepare them to be a mass moving in the direction you want as a jet of steam.
  • ``If there was a layer of gold a foot thick floating over the earth at an altitude at which we could send up a shuttle to go up and collect, it wouldn't be worth doing it,''

    Unfortunately, it's true. We still need a cheap, high efficiency delivery system before we can even think about profitability.

    There is one interesting possibility, though. The "novelty" market. As the article points out, people are willing to pay $2200/mg for moon rock. I know I'd pay a decent amount. Would I pay more than the fragment's weight in gold? I don't know. But there are plenty of people that would. For the initial startups, which would be responsible for the R&D in to making "practical" missions (for materials rather than novelty,) practical, this may be a solution. Still, to make back $1.5 billion from 100 kilos of space rock, you need to sell the rock at $1.5 million/gram. Yeah. Right.
  • I think they should store nuclear waste on the dark side of the moon so it can blow up and send inhabitants of Moon Base Alpha on cool space adventures.
  • Even if these idiots didn't accidentally deorbit the Moon after an overambitious blast, wouldn't the cumulative effect of gradual removal of mass from the moon (over time) end up affecting the Moon's orbit and the Earth's weather?

    Indeed the equations of classical dynamics, worked out by physicists quite a while back, predict that reallocating mass from the Moon to the Earth would change their motion, both with respect to each other and with respect to the Sun. A reallocation of mass between these two bodies would affect things like the tides, wind patterns, and our climate in general -- probably unpredictably and potentially unfavorably.

    Given that the so-called Laws of Physics could not be rewritten by even the most pro-corporate US government, doesn't this projected mining of the Moon sound like a terribly bad idea?

  • Aren't the costs of moving things around in space too much to make anything like this worthwhile? It costs millions of dollars to put a couple tons of junk into orbit. Wouldn't the cost of fuel be more than the value of anything we could get from the moon?

    Until we have something like the space elevator, I just don't think this will happen.
  • Before some environmentalist moron comes up with some lame comment about saving nature and not touching space, let's enjoy this penultimate attempt to make money by exploiting natural resources which belong to nobody. Since moon is a dead space body, no pollution problem whatsoever, no local inhabitants to complain or nationalize after all the big infrastructure work has been done. Even governments are not interested, therefore won't interfere. An industrial dream.
  • I remember seeing plots of moon land for sale on eBay about 1.5 years ago. These were plots of land as large as 500-1000 acres. I wonder when territorial rights disputes on the moon will start happening. This is an opportunity for people to start building more micronations [havenco.com], I would hope.
  • Did anyone check to see if Kraft Foods was one of the companies trying to hit pay-dirt on the moon?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Go to www.lunarembassy.com and you will see that he claimed rights to the moon and other celestial bodies in 1979 by writting a letter the the united nations, US and soviet union to claim said ownership unless there were any objections. They chose not to object and now he sells deeds to land on the moon and in space. Apparently he makes millions of dollars doing this.
    • No one ever seems to figure this out (and I've seen many a story on /. about the ownership of the moon). Whoever owns the moon, like ANY COUNTRY ON EARTH, is whoever can firstly occupy it, and secondly, defend it.


      If some mining company sets up shop there, we can whine all we want, but unless the US/Russia/China/UN/whoever can either a)stop the mining operation through force on the moon itself, or b)stop those in charge here on Earth... well, ownership suddenly amounts to squat.

      Of course, for an Earth-run mining operation it should be easy enough to arrest those responsible, if we want to ignore the complete lack of laws in the matter.

      What'll be more interesting is if someone manages to set up a self-sustaining lunar colony. Guess what? That person(s) would completely own the moon, carte blanche. Unless of course we were willing to nuke them off the surface of the moon, or fight some sort of inter-planetary war. Otherwise, seeing as there's nothing that can be done about it.. they own it by defauly. That's pretty much how countries exist on Earth, anyway.

  • by Nathdot (465087) on Monday November 26, 2001 @12:37AM (#2612100)
    Sure maybe the mining companies have a lot of money, but consider this for a moment:

    Just how are ordinary decent tree-hugging nature-loving separitist activists like myself expected to get up to the moon to protest?

    And speaking of unfair, what is there to chain ourselves to up there?

    And, also, how are we going to play Woodie Guthrie and smoke Mother Nature's loving green herb without atmosphere.

    TOTALLY UNFAIR!
    • I think you'll find that many industrial concerns would be very receptive to the idea of shipping tree-hugging nature-loving seperatists like yourself to the moon. ;)

      Jon Acheson


  • Shouldnt we be actually trying to build houses so when the over flowing population of earth needs to go up there they can?

    Land on the moon is more valuable than you think considering when people actually do move there you'll own land and will be able to charge insane prices
  • by Gorobei (127755) on Monday November 26, 2001 @01:03AM (#2612157)
    What a totally moronic article: "it's not the technology that's the problem, it's the cost." Gee, who would have ever thought? If it costs us $20000/lb to get stuff in orbit, what the hell are we going to ship back to earth to make it worthwhile?

    "The moon's got a lot of silicon and oxygen," Hey, news flash: its common name is "sand." We have a lot of it down on Earth too.

    We can't even create automated mining facilities on Earth for fuck's sack, how are we going to get them working on the moon?

    We've got big mineral deposits in Africa we don't exploit because it isn't economically feasible to build a mountain railroad. No problem, let's build a self-assembling, automated mining facility, ship it to the moon, have it build a railgun to launch processed resources back to us. Oh, and to be cost-effective, why not make it self-replicating? WTF? Why not just invent teleporter technology while you're at it?
    • I think the fact we've discovered that Moon rocks are rich in titanium, aluminum and several other strategic minerals is one very good reason why people are looking forward to Moon mining.

      Given the usefulness of aluminum and the high strength of titanium, I can guess within 100 years most of the Earth's supply of these two metals will come from the Moon, not the Earth.
    • We can't even create automated mining facilities on Earth for fuck's sack, how are we going to get them working on the moon?

      Why wasn't this flagged as "Troll"?

      Several automated mining projects have started up on Earth in the last couple of years. They're all working pretty well last I heard. I'm involved with a couple of them.

      A few links off the top of my head:

      Mine Automation at LKAB [mine-automation.com]
      Mining Automation Program [telemining.net]
      Automated Mining Systems, Inc. [robominer.com] (disclaimer, I work there)

      Also this Slashdot story [slashdot.org] about the topic.

      True, getting something similar going on the moon would be exponentially harder (radiation hardening of electronics, fuel sources, etc.) but it IS being done here on Earth.
    • > "The moon's got a lot of silicon and oxygen,"
      > Hey, news flash: its common name is "sand." We
      > have a lot of it down on Earth too.

      The difference is that the moon's silicon and
      oxygen isn't at the bottom of earth's gravity
      well.

      Chris Mattern
    • I agree about the economics of lunar mining, _if_ getting materials to Earth is the goal. On the other hand, if you want to do some really large-scale construction in space or on the moon, mining materials that don't have to be launched against Earth's gravity and through Earth's atmosphere might make sense.

      On the third hand (if you are a fan of The Mote in God's Eye) why mess with the moon, which has just enough gravity to be a nuisance, when there are all those asteroids out there? Some of them seem to be made primarily of iron-nickel (alloy steel) just waiting for someone to pull up with a big mirror to melt them and a set of molds to cast them into useful shapes. Or alternately, melt the whole asteroid, stick a very long blow-pipe up the middle, and blow it up into a big hollow sphere like blowing a glass bottle.

      Of course, you've got to think really, really big. Maybe even bigger than the Reagan-Bush budget deficits....
  • Transportation won't be the limiting factor. If you're not trying to shoot humans to the moon and back, you can use maglev to launch robots to the moon and return the goods to earth. You can accelerate equipment to much higher velocities with maglev because equipment can handle much higher g-loads than we can.

    You shoot maglev-ramp-building robots to the moon, they build the return ramp on the moon and you've handled the transport cost issue. The maglev ramp on the moon is used to fling the ore back at us ala Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."

    The biggest problem with mining the moon will be pollution. Just because the mining is happening on the moon won't mean we'll end up with no pollution here. The stuff is coming at us at a high speed and has to be decelerated without ablating into the atmosphere or cratering somewhere. If it ablates, you end up filling the atmosphere with ore dust. So somehow, the ore has to be gently brought back to earth.
  • A few links (Score:4, Informative)

    by kingdon (220100) on Monday November 26, 2001 @01:12AM (#2612176) Homepage

    The Artemis Project [asi.org] is more of a space club than a business (although it has some of the latter, and it is pretty successful compared with other clubs). Their web site contains a Data Book which was pretty good, but seems to now be members-only. Another good site is P.E.R.M.A.N.E.N.T. [permanent.com] with lots of details about things like all the different minerals on the moon. Much of it is kind of long term (for example, mining applications which only make financial sense if you are using the minerals off-earth). And at the risk of immodesty I have pages on mining [panix.com] and novelties [panix.com] (with the former being more for the intrinsic value, such as platinum for its appearance or chemical properties, and the latter more having value by virtue of being from the moon). My pages are more focused on near-term applications (such as bring platinum group metals to earth). I try to include some numbers (such as prices of platinum, how much flooding the market would affect the price, how much it would cost to get materials back from an asteroid and stuff), so that you can tweaks the assumptions and see how that affects the finances.

    • Only some of the site is members-only. Much of it is still free to all, as is the main Artemis discussion list, the Moon Society [moonsociety.org] site and the space news pages thereon.

      If you've got a better idea on how to entice people into paying membership fees, maybe you could suggest it to them :)

      Vik :v)
  • Moon Composition*:
    Compound Apollo II Basalt Apollo 14 Breccia Appollo 17 Regolith
    SIO2 40.46 48.09 44.47
    TiO2 10.41 1.51 2.84
    Al2O3 10.08 16.72 18.93
    FeO 19.22 9.53 10.29
    MgO 7.01 10.18 9.95
    CaO 11.54 10.67 12.29
    Na2 .38 .73 .43

    *L. Haskin and P. Warren "Lunar Chemistry"

    Notice that key biogenic substances including hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen do not make up a segnifagent portion of moon rock. (~50ppm)

    In addition the moon posses Helium-3 (10ppm) - an isotope otherwise nonexistent in the inner solar system. It is a key substance for magnetic fusion with the reaction D + He3 -> He4 + H1, which produces about 18MeV of energy (and does not produce the nutron bombardment of the D + T -> He4 + n reaction used in current experimental fusion devices). If fusion power generation becomes reliable in near future, He3 is worth at least $1 million per kilo at today's energy prices. Unfourtantly with the ~$10,000 per kilo launch price today, it would cost almost $5 billion to extract $1 millon of He3 and return the product to earch.

    Until launch prices drop to about $100 per kilo, moon mining is pointless. Launch prices this low are possible, though it means working around the gridlock of the Lockheed-Boeing-JPL-NASA-Congress monster in the US (who's launch costs are ~$10000/kilo on a delta III and twice that on the shuttle).

    **Most of this post is based on information from the book "Entering Space" by Robert Zubrin.

    -Chris Howard
    May the sacred call of the dogcow guide you down the path towards nerdvana. MOOF!
  • Sorry about the pun above... The real trick if mining companies want to make lunar mining worthwhile is to make the cost of sending stuff to and from space. Chemical rocket propulsion is so horribly inefficient for that purpose as to be impractical.

    Now a real place that it would be worthwhile to do commercial mining if transporting stuff could be made easier would be Mercury; that planet's supposed to be full of the dense platinum group metals as it's closest to the center of the solar system (guess that would qualify as a "Rich" world in Master of Orion terms, unfortunately it also qualifies as a "Radiated" world).

  • Okay, so I read a "Mining On The Moon" headline and immediately, the C64 M.U.L.E. theme starts playing in my head. Just in case you're hearing the marching M.U.L.E. yourself... Here [kwed.org] is one authentic-sounding remix, in its all its SID glory. (I'd mirror that link if I could -- sorry.)
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday November 26, 2001 @07:54AM (#2612706) Homepage
    Let the protesting begin!

    Strip-mining will be the preferred and obvious method. In fact, casting debris off in any direction as a method of disposal will most certainly occur. The obvious results will be that the appearance of the moon will change. It will not take long for that to happen either.

    The surface changes would end up being very geometric in the sense that it would likely be in shapes based in straight lines and regular curvatures. From an Earth's eye perspective, the moon would end up looking more like the "Death Star" instead of the celestial body of romantic inspiration if has been since the dawn of man.

    ANY change to the moon's surface will be a change for the worse. The moon as it is in its present form has been an object of romance, wonder and mystery. It has been the inspiration for so much of our world's culture and development. It's literally a part of our humanity. Now people are preparing to exploit one of the most significant objects in human history for a few bucks??? No. We don't need the moon's resources to badly.

    I think it should be prevented.
    • The obvious results will be that the appearance of the moon will change. It will not take long for that to happen either.

      The Angular Resolution of the human eye is roughtly 1 arcminute. The moon is about 200k miles away at any given time. Thus, the smallest point one could see on the moons surface with the naked eye would be a completely black circle 58 miles in diameter on a white background. Since the stuff youre digging up is going to be the same color as the moon, chances are, you wont notice any difference. Even on earth strip mines dont get to be 58 miles in diameter.

  • Anyone else notice that so many things having to do with space-flight or fusion are always about 10 years away?

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