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NASA Moon Space Science

Energy Firm Wants To Be First To Mine the Moon 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the exploration-by-chasing-green dept.
coondoggie writes "By 2020, the Shackleton Energy Company says it intends to be operating the world's first lunar base and propellant depot for all manner of spacecraft. Shackleton stated that after a phase of robotic prospecting, its crews will establish the infrastructure in space and basecamps in the lunar polar crater regions to supervise industrial machinery for mining, processing and transporting lunar products to market in Low Earth Orbit and beyond. The company said it will use a mix of industrial astronauts and advanced robotic systems to provide a strategically-assured, continuous supply of propellants for spacecraft."
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Energy Firm Wants To Be First To Mine the Moon

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  • Moon movie? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CodingHero (1545185) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:12PM (#38088358)
    My prediction: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_(film) [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Moon movie? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:16PM (#38088426) Journal

    Especially reading this part:

    The company said it will use a mix of industrial astronauts and advanced robotic systems to provide a strategically-assured, continuous supply of propellants for spacecraft."

    Uh huh...does that look anything like this? [blogspot.com]

  • Interesting but ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by arthurpaliden (939626) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:17PM (#38088452)
    How have they solved the problem of the abrasive Moon dust? It is really hard on bearings and even worse on lungs.
  • by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:24PM (#38089294) Homepage Journal

    well, they didn't say they're developing their own launch vehicle... maybe they're just waiting for Falcon Heavy to be ready, which could be as early as 2017.

    If they were to start developing a lunar descent module and robotic mining equipment NOW, I don't see why they can't send their stuff to the moon on Falcon Heavies by 2020.

  • by kermidge (2221646) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:31PM (#38089374) Journal

    When I first saw the article, I flashed on Heinlein, then "Destination Moon", the first movie I saw, back in 1951.

    Seems to me that what Bill Stone is setting out to do is the kind of thing any real nerd would give his left nut to do, be involved in, or see happen. I may be getting too cynical (I think many here are, or have already arrived) but I'd like to see this work. Wouldn't hurt to have a modern-day Delos Harriman or three backing this. I think too many forget that humans invent their own future. One may observe - avidly or idly, participate, or scoff.

    For those who didn't click through the links: http://www.stoneaerospace.com/news-/news-mining-moon.php [stoneaerospace.com]

    (Thanks for the hippie quiz. It brought back a few memories. 114)

  • Article II (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:45PM (#38089540)

    "Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. "

    The US is a signatory, which makes this law for any US registered company. How long the treaty remains viable [thespacereview.com] is another question.

    The preamble of the OST states, “Believing that the exploration and use of outer space should be carried out for the benefit of all peoples irrespective of the degree of their economic and scientific development.” Like the “common heritage of mankind” language in the LoST, this opens the way for an attempt at control and taxation of the commercial space activities by international bodies.

  • by squidflakes (905524) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:46PM (#38089550) Homepage

    The donations page is amusing. For a donation of half a million dollars, you can have the base named after you. Personally, I'd love to see this actually happen, but the skeptic in me is...well, you know.

    Still, if I had the two-hundred and fifty thousand laying around that would get a spacecraft named after me, I'd do it. Then I'd ask to name the seventh craft in the fleet and submit my middle name so it could be Blake's 7.

  • by Jeng (926980) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @03:57PM (#38089650)

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924191552.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    The trouble with moon dust stems from the strange properties of lunar soil. The powdery grey dirt is formed by micrometeorite impacts which pulverize local rocks into fine particles. The energy from these collisions melts the dirt into vapor that cools and condenses on soil particles, coating them in a glassy shell.

    These particles can wreak havoc on space suits and other equipment. During the Apollo 17 mission, for example, crewmembers Harrison âoeJackâ Schmitt and Gene Cernan had trouble moving their arms during moonwalks because dust had gummed up the joints. âoeThe dust was so abrasive that it actually wore through three layers of Kevlar-like material on Jackâ(TM)s boot,â Taylor says.

    To make matters worse, lunar dust suffers from a terrible case of static cling. UV rays drive electrons out of lunar dust by day, while the solar wind bombards it with electrons by night. Cleaning the resulting charged particles with wet-wipes only makes them cling harder to camera lenses and helmet visors. Mian Abbas of the National Space Science and Technology Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will discuss electrostatic charging on the moon and how dust circulates in lunar skies.

    Luckily, lunar dust is also susceptible to magnets. Tiny specks of metallic iron (Fe0) are embedded in each dust particleâ(TM)s glassy shell. Taylor has designed a magnetic filter to pull dust from the air, as well as a âoedust suckerâ that uses magnets in place of a vacuum. He has also discovered that microwaves melt lunar soil in less time than it takes to boil a cup of tea. He envisions a vehicle that could microwave lunar surfaces into roads and landing pads as it drives, and a device to melt soil over lunar modules to provide insulation against space radiation. The heating process can also produce oxygen for breathing.

  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... t ['etz' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:05PM (#38089714) Homepage Journal

    No, the concept is essentially one and the same. It does relate to whoever can grant title to a hunk of real estate or an object (like a vehicle) in terms of instituting the rule of law into the situation rather than "might makes right" in terms of the actual ownership of that thing.

    The problem with the Moon is that by treaty nobody wants to grant any sort of title to the land on the Moon, or at least no agency or organization that will have an army to back up the legal decisions made about that ownership. The reason I "own" a hunk of real state in America right now is in part because I have title to that chunk of land, and more significantly if somebody tries to kick me off that land that I can solicit the resources of my local police department and ultimately the resources of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps to make sure I can keep that land. They are the folks who back up the judiciary and make somebody trying to take my land by force of arms without going through the judiciary as nothing more than a joke and a common thief.

    Perhaps folks who go to the Moon will set up their own government or governments to deal with that situation, so it isn't something that necessarily needs to be done on the Earth. Still, I don't see Earth-based governments giving up such authority so easily either.

  • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... t ['etz' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:44PM (#38090196) Homepage Journal

    Yes, the page looks shaky, but the people involved are real. Their marketing and website may leave a bit to the imagination, but they have some real engineers and folks who know what they are doing along with access to capital resources to get at least some major projects completed.

    The problem here is that none of the guys involved are millionaires/billionaires like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos. Sadly, it will take somebody like that before these guys get much put together, so I'll admit it is a long shot at best. From a technical viewpoint, however, they certainly could get the job done if anybody can get it done.

    Why they are going the route of the "donation" method to get something going is something I won't understand. For myself, I wish they would get rid of the silly little side projects like that, but there are others who have tried that route before. Sadly, I have never seen a project get built using that sort of financial model, at least in terms of rocketry or much of anything that dealt with devices that spent a prolonged period of time in space. The closest I can imagine that has been involved with projects on a similar scale is the Amsat [wikipedia.org] satellites put up by amateur radio operators. There is also Team FREDNET [wikipedia.org] who has been trying to compete with the Google Lunar X-Prize competition, who at the moment seem more likely to get something to the Moon before Shackleton Energy at least in terms of the resources being offered.

    Still, this isn't a group that I would call a bunch of scam artists, but rather dreamers and wishful thinkers. If you really did want to go to the Moon, they would be the ones to make it happen.

  • Is this even news? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @04:58PM (#38090398)

    "To make this ambitious plan possible, the company this week said it had begun its initial fundraising campaign via a company called RocketHub which defines itself as a crowdfunding outfit that helps raise money for a variety of entrepreneurial pursuits."

    In other news, I have decided to build a robot army to take over the world and build fusion power plants, donations welcome! lol. In the aerospace industry without funding you're just another in a LONG list of dreamers with a bunch of untried concepts. Maybe the Shackleton people are less utterly vapor than some, but the chances of anything like this getting off the ground are 1000's to 1 against. I think the business plan is vastly overoptimistic in its cost analysis, and the question still remains who would be the customers for all this rocket fuel? Truthfully, having been in the business of building rockets, this stuff is way harder and way more expensive than even most of the people in the industry are wont to estimate when it is their own project.

    Not that I don't hope they can pull it off, but they're going to need 50-100 billion to do it, and I'm pretty much doubting they're going to crowdsource the GDP of most of sub-saharan Africa... Good luck to them though.

  • 2020? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:06PM (#38090480) Homepage
    If they insist on human astronauts they can kiss it all goodbye right now. If they focus on exclusively robotic missions for the first 20 years or so, they can very likely have several missions under their belt and a minimal active presence in at least one lunar surface operation by 2020. All they need is half a dozen autonomous or semi-autonomous mining machines and a logistics and material support setup to start getting a little work going. Nothing a couple dozen or so Titans and Deltas couldn't manage. One rocket lifts the cargo to LEO, another lifts the vehicle to transport it the rest of the way. Do that a dozen or so times and you've got a robotic moon base. I would bet $20 that they can get at least one or two such missions in by 2020. The absence of humans has the potential of making it lean, fast, and effective.

    My main concern is that no taxpayer subsidies be involved. If they want to set up their vast lunar mining industry, fine. Don't expect me to pay for even a tiny bit of it so that a handful of rich assholes can bask in luxury and privilege. VCs should fund all of it.

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