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Moon NASA Robotics Space

NASA and Astrobotic Investigating Ice Hunting Mission to the Moon 46

Zothecula writes, quoting Gizmodo "While the Moon may or may not contain life forms, precious metals or even green cheese, recent satellite missions have indicated that it does nonetheless contain something that could prove quite valuable — water ice. NASA has estimated that at least 650 million tons (600 million tonnes) of the stuff could be deposited in craters near the Moon's north pole alone. If mined, it could conceivably serve as a source of life support for future lunar bases, or it could be used to produce fuel for spacecraft stopping at a "lunar gas station." Before any mining can happen, however, we need to learn more about the ice. That's why NASA has contracted Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology to determine if its Polaris rover robot could be used for ice prospecting."
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NASA and Astrobotic Investigating Ice Hunting Mission to the Moon

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  • Transport (Score:3, Funny)

    by trimpnick ( 1362187 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @01:05PM (#39796813)
    Hopefully they design a vehicle to take them to the moon first...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From Polaris rover [gizmag.com] "Already, Astrobotic has reserved the use of a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle to send a spacecraft containing Polaris on a trajectory toward the Moon, for a planned 2015 prospecting mission. That spacecraft should be able to deliver the robot safely to the lunar surface, using a system that allows it to automatically avoid landing hazards such as large rocks or craters â" ", so it's already being addressed

      • I meant more a transport for humans, no point in making a lunar base using water if we're not gonna go there
        • more or less i would guess that the plan goes

          1 have bots build a "dome" and get minimal Life support online
          2 get Astronauts up there to continue the work
          3 get "civilian contractors" up once a decent set of domes is setup
          4 get 1% folks up there and paying (now that we have Marriot-Luna setup)
          5 PROFIT!!

          having enough water to make mixed drinks would be a GOOD THING before we get to step 4

          • yes, but mining the vodka is a sticking point
            • by PaulBu ( 473180 )

              Did not you know that Luna's main export are grains, mainly wheat -- quite suitable for making Vodka, take it from this Russian! ;-)

              Paul B.

              • Yes, and every ton of that wheat contains some amount of increasingly hard-to-find H2O.

                Which is why it's important to get that induction catapult shutdown ASAP....

        • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @01:38PM (#39797293)
          Well sending robots is the first step. Even NASA did so in the 1960s. The Surveyor program tested technology, landing, and various other things before the Apollo program sent the humans. One of the Apollo missions landed within a couple of hundred meters of one of the Surveyor missions. The astronauts visited the robot and brought back one of its cameras.
          • Well sending robots is the first step.

            And hopefully the last. we need humans on the moon like we need ducks, tree kangaroos or submarines on the moon.

        • There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to build a lunar base that's going to use the water if we can't access the water. NASA is doing it right...It's a lot cheaper to send a robot to check out the water, see how easy it is to extract the water, and even return a sample to Earth than it is to send people there. And NASA would look really stupid if they get congress to fund a multi-billion dollar lunar base program only to discover that they don't have access to the water that they had counted on.

          • Re:Transport (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @03:24PM (#39798725) Homepage

            There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to build a lunar base that's going to use the water if we can't access the water.

            There's no point in building a heavy lift vehicle to go to the moon in the first place.

            It's vastly easier to get from LEO to the moon and back than it is to get to LEO from the earth's surface. If NASA finds usable water on the moon that can be turned into propellant, then we should take that and bring it to LEO to use as a fueling station. Then when we want to go to the moon, we only need to lift the craft itself and not all the propellant that it will need to get from earth to the moon (which has an exponential effect on the size of rocket you need to get to orbit).

            What we need to start doing is treating space missions as two steps: 1) earth surface to earth orbit 2) earth orbit to wherever. And ideally stage 1) should never be lifting anything for stage 2) that doesn't need to come from earth.

            NASA is indeed doing it right. They know this is the way to do things in the future, and it's what they're trying to aim for.

            Of course then there's the Congress-mandated SLS pork rocket. Nice!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Hopefully they design a vehicle to take them to the moon first..."

      BTW, the mayor of the moon dropped out of the presidential race.

    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      Yup, need a vehicle, and a hunting licence.
      Wake me up when there's talk of ice fishing on the moon. I can't imagine what they want to shoot on the ice.

  • Impressive (Score:5, Informative)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @01:15PM (#39796953)

    650 million tons of ice sounds impressive, but it's really not a lot considering how much we use.

    650,000,000 - tons of ice estimated on the moon's north pole
    27,000,000,000,000,000 - tons of ice estimated on Antarctica
    5,400,000,000,000,000 - tons freshwater on Earth excluding Antarctica
    90 - tons of residential water use per American per year

    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @01:21PM (#39797061)

      650 millions tons is a lot when you consider that a lunar facility would be recycling most of the water, this gives a nice starting point without having to haul it out of our gravity well.

      This then leaves a lot of extra for use by space craft for various reasons. It's a lot cheaper to lift the water or by products from the moon then it is from the Earth!

    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sparticus789 ( 2625955 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @01:30PM (#39797171) Journal
      I don't believe that NASA is planning on moving 6 billion people to the moon. 650 million tons of ice is plenty for a few hundred person colony or refueling station. Plus I doubt that they would be watering lawns, taking long bubble baths, or washing their cars. So if each person uses 90 tons of ice, and assuming no recycling, then: 650,000,000 tons of ice / 90 tons of eater per American per year = 7,222,222.222 years of water for one person for one year. One hundred people can live on the moon for 72,222 years or so.
      • I agree that it would be a great localized resource to leverage, however I think it would be foolish to use it as rocket fuel. Fuel cell where what goes in comes right back out again? Ok, no problem. But burning it up in a rocket means it goes away and never comes back - and rockets can burn an awful lot of fuel real quick. I, for one, vote no on rocket fuel.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Obviously it's a non-renewable resource, but it could serve as a stepping stone to the asteroid belt. From there, water-heavy asteroids can be returned for future use, or for consumption on the moon.

          I couldn't say whether this stepping stone makes sense in terms of investment; might be cheaper to go straight there.

    • Once you have a significant amount of water and a refinery on orbit around the moon, this problem solves itself. You now have enough fuel to blast out to Ceres, which has more water ice on it than all the Earth's oceans and 0.03g surface gravity. Send a nuclear powered refinery out there the fast way with a big can. You don't even need to refine it at that point: you can blast all the way back with a steam powered rocket.
  • ...or they can just do like we do on earth and drill for water, oil and gas. The planets are all made of the same stuff, so it should all be there.
    • ...or they can just do like we do on earth and drill for water, oil and gas. The planets are all made of the same stuff, so it should all be there.

      There's no oil on the moon. Oil comes from ancient biomass. There was never life on the moon, thus there is no oil now.

  • 650 million tons of water is about 150 billion gallons. Not that much, really.
  • If the Ice is down in the shadows of the polar craters, why do you power it with solar cells?

    shouldn't you atleast set up rovers in pairs so one is on the rim(in the light) collecting energy and the other down in the hole doing the work?

  • I hope they read "The moon is a harsh mistress" [wikipedia.org] first. It covers a multitude of problems with exploitation, in addition to being an enjoyable story.
  • If the moon water were melted would it be possible to use a gravity siphon to bring it to earth?

    • Why would you bring it to Earth? We have way more water here, you are better off using it up there.

  • Almost all the minerals available on the Moon are also present on the Earth in sufficient quantities that mining them on the Moon and transporting them back is not economical. As a result, most discussion of mining on the Moon is geared towards how to make a lunar base self-sustaining, not how to make it an economically viable alternative to terrestrial mining. http://bit.ly/IeyKWF [bit.ly]