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Moon

How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the blow-it-up dept.
MarkWhittington writes "With the Chang'e 3 and its rover Jade Rabbit safely ensconced on the lunar surface, the question arises: is it time to start dividing up the moon and its resources? It may well be an issue by the middle of the current century. With China expressing interest in exploiting lunar resources and a number of private companies, such Moon Express, working for the same goal, a mechanism for who gets what is something that needs looking into. Moon Daily quotes a Russian official as suggesting that it can all be done in a civilized manner, through international agreements. On the other hand, law professor and purveyor of Instapundit Glenn Reynolds suggests that China might spark a moon race by having a private company claim at least parts of the moon. 'International cooperation will certainly rule supreme while there are no economic interests, while it is not clear where commercial profits lie. Scientists can't help communicating with each other and sharing ideas.'"
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How To Avoid a Scramble For the Moon and Its Resources

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:33AM (#45745763) Homepage

    Somebody [wikipedia.org] already did.

  • by sunking2 (521698) on Friday December 20, 2013 @11:55AM (#45746007)
    The shuttle cost $10k/lb to bring things 200 miles up to the ISS. SpaceX knocks that considerably. Now lets talk about going to the moon, being able to actually mine something, and bring it back. There is nothing that values in the $1M+/lb to go and get. It's not cost effective and will be much more than 50 years until it is and there is any sort of land grab because of it. Until then the Moon is huge, and the players so limited there will be no butting heads.
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:08PM (#45746163) Homepage
    The problem with mining the moon, and space travel in general, is a pure physics problem. One that isn't easily solved. The reason that we haven't advanced space travel much in the past 30 years is because it's actually not really solvable without some huge leap in technology, such as anti-gravity drives or space elevators, which are all science fiction at the moment.

    The problem is this. Since there's little-to-no air for spacecraft to put against as we leave the atmosphere, the only way we can accelerate (or resists accelerating back towards the earth), as we reach the upper atmosphere is to eject mass out the back of the spacecraft at high speed. Due to Newton's third law, pushing mass out the back of a spacecraft creates a reactive force propelling the spacecraft forward. You can't have an electric spacecraft like you can an electric car because there's no road for the spacecraft to push against. For every gram of cargo you want to put into space, you have to have enough fuel to propel that mass into space, also, remembering that the fuel itself has mass, which itself must be propelled a certain distance until it is expelled.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:18PM (#45746259)

    What are the resources there?

    1. Silicon
    2. Oxygen
    3. Aluminum
    4. Iron
    5. Magnesium
    6. Water ice (in craters near the poles)
    7. Helium 3
    8. Titanium
    9. Lots of trace minerals
    10. Solar energy

  • by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:53PM (#45746617)

    What are the resources there?

    1. Silicon

    2nd most abundant element in Earth's crust

    2. Oxygen

    Most abundant element in Earth's crust

    3. Aluminum

    3rd most abundant element in Earth's crust

    4. Iron

    4th most abundant element in Earth's crust

    5. Magnesium

    In the top 10 of the most abundant elements in Earth's crust.

    6. Water ice (in craters near the poles)

    Oceans

    7. Helium 3

    10s of ppb only, and just on the surface (solar wind doesn't really penetrate).
    Also, it's useless as an energy source compared to everything else:
    If we are at a technological level capable of building a fusion plant for He3,
    we can build one for hydrogen for much less. And thus, again, Oceans.

    8. Titanium

    In the top 10 of the most abundant elements in Earth's crust.

    9. Lots of trace minerals

    In traces very similar to those on Earth, given the common history.

    10. Solar energy

    Deserts.


    So unless the idea is to produce stuff that goes further out and not back to Earth,
    mining the Moon is just an insanely difficult way to get resources we have plenty
    of down here.

    Admittedly, building an actual production economy for space exploration would be
    a great idea, and I'm all for it. Waiting for humanity to get the technical capability (to say
    nothing of the will) to do so might still take a while though. We're far from being there.

  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Friday December 20, 2013 @12:55PM (#45746641) Homepage
    Despite the feeling that I'm talking to a five year old stuck in the "Why? Why? Why?" phase, I'll try to address this one as well.

    Propel vehicles from Earth orbit or from an Earth-Moon Lagrangian point to remote locations in the solar system for the purpose of sustaining the life functions of astronauts while they travel. Humans are in space because there's cool stuff there.

    If you ask me why humans need vehicles or why there's cool stuff in space, I'm going to really wish I could reach through my monitor and severely beat you about the face and neck.
  • Re:RE (Score:4, Informative)

    by cerberusti (239266) on Friday December 20, 2013 @02:44PM (#45747835)

    To reach orbit you need to be able to generate enough force to lift your craft above the bulk of the atmosphere and put on enough speed to obtain orbital velocity.

    Once you are there drag will be minimal, and even small propulsive forces will add up over time to get you escape velocity. Gravitational forces will not stop you from doing this as long as you overcome whatever the atmospheric friction is (if gravity is very strong, you just take longer to put on the speed to escape from orbit.)

    The basic principle of ejecting matter with more energy is sound, but the devices we have which can do this tend to be heavy with low thrust, so using an ion drive to escape the atmosphere and hit orbital velocity is beyond our capabilities at the moment.

    This is really more a matter of producing a lot of energy quickly (and not melting whatever we are using to push mass out at a high rate with high energy.)

    I do expect that we will get better at this over time, chemical energy is just very easy in comparison.

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