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NASA Now Accepting Applications From Companies That Want To Mine the Moon

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  • by bazmail (764941) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:26PM (#46212133)
    Hey NASA, race ya.
    • by dk20 (914954)
      Was just about to post the same thing. Wasnt there some global agreement over owernship of "foreign bodies" or such? Why do you need NASA's permission for something they dont own or control?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Trevin (570491)
        The Moon Treaty (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Treaty) is only signed by 15 members of the United Nations, and by none of the countries which engage in manned space flight. So doesn’t have any legal force.
        • by bazmail (764941)
          Forget treaties.

          NASA's premise is clearly that they OWN the moon, and in order to mine it, you need to ask them, nicely.
          • by mythosaz (572040) on Monday February 10, 2014 @05:44PM (#46212931)

            Due to the landmark case Finders v Keepers [wikipedia.org], I'm pretty sure NASA owns the moon.

            • by Xest (935314)

              I'm pretty sure NASA didn't find the moon. In fact, I'm quite certain that humans knew it was there long before they even knew the American continent existed let alone a nation state that borrows the same name.

              In fact on that note America, you didn't "find" that name either, so it's not yours to use, in fact for most of you it's not even your country to live in as you didn't find it. It belongs to the native Americans, the Scandinavians, or the British who all found it previously.

          • I don't read it that way at all. This sounds more like NASA is trying to find a company to build some lunar mining robots for NASA to use.

      • Maybe you're thinking of the Outer Space Treaty [wikipedia.org]? Wikipedia says it forbids any government from claiming a celestial resource such as the Moon or a planet, but doesn't say much about private entities AFAIK.
    • by crutchy (1949900)

      I need NASA's permission to mine the moon now?

      it's more likely you need vladimir putin's actually... even nasa uses russian rocket motors

  • by alta (1263) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:27PM (#46212139) Homepage Journal

    I mean I'd rather not look up at night and see a strip mining operations on the moon.

    Or maybe all mining has to be underground, no above ground mining. You're allowed one small area to be your entry point and that's it.

    • Well, first off, there is no "Dark side" of the moon.

      Secondly, since the moons in tidal lock with the earth, the side facing us pretty much gets the least amount of light with the exception of the full moon. So, if light were a concern to them, the majority of the mining would be done outside of our view. Also, I believe most of the resources they'd be interested in are at the 2 poles. So again, it's unlikely you could see it from earth.

      • by alta (1263)

        blah blah blah, you know what I'm talking about. Stop being pedantic :p I think everyone knows what I'm talking about... Mine the side that we don't have to LOOK at.

      • Secondly, since the moons in tidal lock with the earth, the side facing us pretty much gets the least amount of light with the exception of the full moon.

        Actually, both sides of the moon get about the same amount of light - they're in direct sunlight half the time.

        • Not quite. Lunar eclipses darken the near side of the moon, but never the far side.
          • by Junta (36770)

            *about* the same amount of ligth

            I think the delta because of lunar eclipses counts in the 'about' neighborhood.

      • Well, first off, there is no "Dark side" of the moon.

        Matter of fact, it's all dark.

    • The Moon is well over 2000 miles in diameter. You're expecting to see a mining operation from 230,000 miles away?
      • by alta (1263)

        Well, if they use a lot of industrial lighting to illuminate the operations a new moon could easily become a sparkly moon...

        May be pretty at first, but I like the way it looks now.

    • I mean I'd rather not look up at night and see a strip mining operations on the moon.

      Hmm, a strip mine on the moon that was 10km on a side would be about 1/38440 radians wide from Earth.

      Which is about the same size as an airplane window appears to be from the ground, when passing overhead at cruising altitude.

      So, when was the last time you could pick out an individual 767 window as a plane flew overhead at cruising altitude?

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      I mean I'd rather not look up at night and see a strip mining operations on the moon.

      I think seeing strip-mining on the moon before I die might be the greatest thing I could have ever imaged.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      No kidding, if we start mining the moon, we might turn it into a lifeless ball of rock with craters pitting it's surface.
  • NASA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schneidafunk (795759) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:28PM (#46212147)

    I didn't realize NASA owned the moon.

  • Space 1999, Sorta (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tiberus (258517) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:31PM (#46212187)

    Okay, am I the only one have flashbacks to 13 September 1999, when the nuclear storage facility on Moonbase Alpha exploded sending the Moon hurtling out of orbit?

    So, mine the Moon, ship the material to Earth... Um, won't this change it's mass and as a consequence, it's amount of gravity in generates and then it's orbit? Sorry for being all Doom & Gloom here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Okay, am I the only one have flashbacks to 13 September 1999, when the nuclear storage facility on Moonbase Alpha exploded sending the Moon hurtling out of orbit?

      So, mine the Moon, ship the material to Earth... Um, won't this change it's mass and as a consequence, it's amount of gravity in generates and then it's orbit? Sorry for being all Doom & Gloom here.

      So does sending a rocket up from Earth. Hey, if you shine a flashlight up in the sky, some of those photons will escape all the atmosphere and due to conservation of momentum actually push Earth in the other direction.

    • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:42PM (#46212311) Homepage
      Um, the moon has a mass of 73,476,730,900,000,000,000,000 kilograms. A few million tons either way isn't even a dent in that.

      There are entirely different reasons [amazon.com] why you should worry about huge masses of rock being produced on the moon and thrown down to Earth.

      • by gnick (1211984)

        Your link was the first thing through my mind. You have to be careful when you decide to "throw rocks." TANSTAAFL.

      • Note that a few million tons will be transferred to the Earth.

        Entropy (2nd law of thermodynamics) and energy conservation are pains in the arse of course.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by msauve (701917)
      Moving mass from the Moon to Earth would have no effect on the orbit. The orbital period is dependent on the sum of the masses [wikipedia.org].
      • I'm not exactly an astrophysicist, but I think orbital period may be misleading. The force of gravity is G*m*M/(r^2), and the balancing centrifugal force that the moon needs to not crash into the earth is m*v^2/r (assuming it had a perfectly circular orbit). Set them equal and you get v^2 = G*M/r. It's true that the mass of the moon doesn't matter, but if you bring that mass back to earth you might have problems. Of course the transition of the mass away from the moon might increase r enough to balance thin
      • Also, you were looking at the wrong equation. The moon orbits the earth, not the other way around. Scroll up a little.
        • by msauve (701917)
          Nope. They orbit each other. The barycenter is about 4600 km from the Earth's center. The "other equation" is just for the case where the minor body mass can be completely ignored (e.g. an artificial satellite).
          • The "other equation" is just for the case where the minor body mass can be completely ignored (e.g. an artificial satellite).

            And in such cases, the first equation can still be used and will give the correct answer, it's just that it's easier to use the second one when the lighter body is completely negligible.

        • The moon orbits the earth, not the other way around.

          As in any orbital system, they orbit each other. The greater the mass imbalance, the less the lighter body matters, but that is still true. The equations aren't in and of themselves going draw a distinction between the two.

    • I looked up some figures (http://www.infomine.com/minesite/) and found that some mines operate at 63,000 tonnes per day. Let's assume that Mine Base Moon ramps up to that level fairly quickly. The mass of the Moon is 7.34767309 × 10^22 kilograms. 63,000 tonnes = 63,000,000 kg. At this rate, it would take 1,166,297,315,873,016 days (or 3 trillion years) to use up the entire Moon. We'd be in greater risk of the Sun going red giant first.

      Of course, we don't need to "use up" the Moon. Let's assume we

      • by tiberus (258517)

        And now I know, and knowledge is power!

        Sorta figured with Moon's smaller mass and the fact that we would be removing that mass some sort of effect might occur. Just didn't expect the impact to be that trivial. Factor in that while the mine may process 63K tonnes/day, we wouldn't be shipping ore only the cracked, smelted, processed material and it becomes even more so.

        • Just to add some more to the mix, NASA has some information on asteroid sizes ( http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/asteroidfact.html ). Let's assume we picked a small asteroid, Castalia, and mined that at 63 million kg per day. We'd "use it all up" in just over 21 years. (Again, this is assuming the "perfect case" of the asteroid being entirely made of materials we'd want. No waste products produced at all.) A larger asteroid like Ida would take us 4.3 million of years to use up. Remember,

    • How could that have possibly happened, given that in 1994, a runaway planet hurtled between the Earth and the Moon, breaking the moon into two big chunks, unleashing cosmic destruction, and casting man's civilization into ruin. [youtube.com]

      And while it would be good to get rid of mining operations on Earth, replacing it with space mining, the main advantage of mining in space is that you do not need to use a giant rocket to get that stuff into space; it's already up there, and can be used for industrial purposes in situ

  • Tritium ? (Score:3, Funny)

    by stooo (2202012) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:31PM (#46212193)

    Mining tritium on the moon ?
    not a good idea.
    If you bring it back and it explodes in the athmosphere during reentry, we are all dead.

    BTW, slashdot beta is shit.

    • by Minwee (522556)
      Would you rather they all went whaling?
    • How, exactly, are you proposing that could happen?
    • Are you REALLY suggesting that reentry produces enough energy to initiate fusion???

      If so, might want to look at some actual numbers for a change...

      Deuterium-tritium fusion requires about 100,000 eV. Which translates to a reentry speed in the vicinity of 1800 km/s, assuming that basically everything were perfect to induce fusion.

      Note that reentry speed from the Moon is about 11.2 km/s.

      Note further that everything will NOT be perfect to induce fusion.

      The only danger from dropping tritium from the Moon

  • "rare earths" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by avandesande (143899) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:35PM (#46212235) Journal

    Rare earth minerals aren't rare at all- they are just costly and polluting to process.

    Also with a lack of geologic processes such as volcanism and water I doubt minerals will be concentrated anywhere.

    Seems like more of a publicity stunt than anything.

    • And Helium-3 is rare, but worthless until we make massive advances in fusion research.

      There is absolutely no reason to go to the moon in the near future.

      • It has plenty of oxygen and aluminum, which would be useful. Near Earth asteroids are probably a better bet, however.

    • Although pollution and interfering governments would be no issue, since there is no environment to pollute in the first place (unless you're a geologist concerned about the destruction of some interesting rock formation).

    • by tomhath (637240)
      Shouldn't they be called "Rare Moon" minerals here?
  • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:36PM (#46212251) Homepage Journal

    I think "mining" is a pretty damn euphemistic way to talk about viscious slaughter of all the moon's whales.

    • by Hillgiant (916436)

      They will not harm the whales. Only the petunias.

    • Haven't you been to the theme park?

      There ain't no whales.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:45PM (#46212351)

    Clones of Sam Rockwell.

  • by Akratist (1080775) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:48PM (#46212383)
    Old Steve Jackson game supplement, but it was very interesting in terms of speculation with how real-world interactions would probably go between permanent moon settlements and earth. The arc of independence almost seems inevitable once there is sufficient development and an inability to directly control events happening in a distant location, not unlike what happened with British colonization in America. Of course, long-term habitability of the moon remains to be seen, although it seems likely people are going to give it a shot at some point.
    • Shout out to GURPS.

      Even a high sustainable moon base wouldn't have manufacturing facilities for things like computer chips. Even if they can eat and breathe indefinitely, they will not be able to be truly independent of Earth.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Monday February 10, 2014 @04:51PM (#46212411) Journal

    OK I must be COMPLETELY misunderstanding something.

    First I keep hearing about "the Chinese have a monopoly on rare earths".
    Now NASA is talking about people mining rare earths on the moon?
    (Both the article, and it's original referent at Phys.org refer to 'rare earth elements', although I'm inclined to believe that Phys.org *may* have been using an unfortunately-confusing term for 'elements that are indeed rare on earth' like He3.)

    RARE EARTHS ARE (largely) NOT RARE AT ALL.
    They simply don't exist in concentrated veins. The processing is dirty and polluting, which is the only reason China might be considered to have a 'corner' on the market - they don't give a shit about their pollution.

    As much as we NIMBY rare-earth refining, it can't be so bad that we're seriously willing to go to the MOON to do it?

  • Is it really upto NASA/the US to say who can and can't mine the moon?

    • actually it sounds like they're offering a partnership, not permissions. you need NASA's permission to launch from their facilities, use their resources, and work with them on getting there and back.

      China didn't need permission for Jade Rabbit, so I think this is just for american companies to work WITH NASA, not in competition with NASA...

      • Though I would guess youre right, since when does NASA launch rockets again? NASA these days also relies on Russians. I wonder why these companies would want to team up with NASA, instead of SpaceX.

  • mining an asteroid or comet is one thing... but the moon? Good luck. Maybe if you kept your activities to the dark side and left even that as subsurface?

  • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Monday February 10, 2014 @05:26PM (#46212757)
    I was under the impression that the moon and Antarctica were covered by the same international treaty, which we are party to. Can the US offer private mining contracts in Antarctica? What is the legal basis for doing so on the moon?
    • by kwbauer (1677400)

      If it gets to that point, any country that objects is free to have the UN send up a few "peacekeepers" to stop it.

    • I was under the impression that the moon and Antarctica were covered by the same international treaty

      Nope, that would be the Moon Treaty [wikipedia.org]

      which we are party to.

      Nope. No country capable of reaching orbit has ratified the moon treaty.

      There is the Outer Space Treaty [wikipedia.org], but that one doesn't bar NASA from regulating moon mining.

  • On the subject of large scale ventures, author Dennis Wingo wrote, " think what having access to rights over a billion kilos of platinum would do for your corporate portfolio." http://www.amazon.com/gp/produ... [amazon.com]
  • I mean really, where does NASA get off parceling out the moon?

  • They put a mine on the moon, mine on the moon...
  • ...attempts to fly a helium filled Zeppelin on the Moon failed miserably. Oh the lack of humanity.
  • by Sentrion (964745) on Monday February 10, 2014 @08:55PM (#46214115)

    While mining may sound exciting, the first business on the moon will probably be off-planet banking. Just incorporate your business in the Sea of Tranquility, set up a Dark Side irrevocable trust, and manage your on-moon account remotely from anywhere in the universe. With no court system, no law enforcement, and no way to serve process, what better place to store your electronic currency? And by electronic currency, I'm talking US dollars, British Pounds, Euros, Yen, etc. Bitcoins have the potential to be held and transacted anonymously, but all currency these days is electronic. And the moon can't be any worse than Cyprus.

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