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NASA Mulling Joint Lunar Missions With Commercial Enterprises 59

MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 3, 2013 story in SpaceRef, NASA has issued a Request for Information concerning various commercial endeavors to create robotic lunar landers. NASA appears to be interested in assisting in those projects with a view of using the resulting vehicles for its own exploration plans. Officially, thanks to a mandate by President Obama, NASA is not planning its own crewed mission to the moon. However the space agency seems to be interested in supporting, in some way, a commercially run lunar base. Joint robotic lunar landings might be seen as the start of such an effort."
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NASA Mulling Joint Lunar Missions With Commercial Enterprises

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  • by Cenan ( 1892902 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @04:29AM (#44193071)

    There is no technical difference between public, public-private or private - only the implementation detail of how the money winds up in campaign donors' pockets.

  • Dicking around (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheGoodNamesWereGone ( 1844118 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @04:31AM (#44193077)
    NASA dicks around in low Earth orbit and the only way to send up an astronaut is on a Russian rocket. We should've been on Mars by 1980 at the latest, but we just. stopped.. trying. People will disagree with the above sentiment. It's jingoistic and Cold War-ish, they'll say. To them I reply, gloat over our corpses. You won and we lost. We no longer have the national will to do great things. Whether it's NASA alone or a coalition of public and private firms, we just don't have what it takes. You win.
  • by Thanshin ( 1188877 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @07:52AM (#44193583)

    If you don't care about space exploration you're much worse than anti-science. If you care more about "billions of dollars" than about whether humanity populates places outside of the Earth your problem isn't with science, it's with having a tiny point of view. Essentially, not caring about the expansion of humanity through space puts you closer to animals, which only care about eating, reproducing and surviving.

    However, it's not the same to consider that it might not be the appropriate moment for space exploration (for example because humanity should first work on discovering better propulsion systems) than to just don't care about it.

    Not caring about space exploration is similar to not caring about philosophy, art or history. It just makes you less human and more beast.

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Friday July 05, 2013 @08:09AM (#44193637)

    Not much gold either from what I understand.

    No one has actually looked much. It's worth noting that two of the largest deposits of gold and platinum group metals (PGM), the Bushveld complex in South Africa and the Norilsk-Talnakh deposit in Siberia are both created by igneous processes possibly in conjunction with asteroid impacts, processes which happen on the Moon just as well.

    The Norilsk-Talnakh deposit is actually a feature of the Siberian Traps which are effectively the Terran equivalent of a very large Lunar mare (as I recall, depending how large the Siberian Traps originally were, they could have been larger than all but the two largest lunar maria). PGM were concentrated near the outlet dikes for a vast amount of lava (several million cubic kilometers worth) via some sulphur chemistry mechanism - apparently bubbles of PGM rich magma were trapped under the series of flows, leaching a bit of PGMs and other materials from each subsequent lava flow and increased in concentration as the Siberian traps eruptions continued.

    The Bushveld complex apparently is a magma intrusion coupled with an asteroid impact. It is currently unknown if the asteroid contributed the PGMs present in this deposit (which is by far the world's largest deposit of platinum). PGMs were concentrated by the very slow cooling of the deposit which settled out them in two or three thin layers (or "reefs" in the local mining jargon).

    Because there is almost no erosion on the Moon, similar deposits to either of the above would likely be deeply buried. It is worth noting however that because of the Moon's much lower gravity (and ignoring the moderately lower density of lunar crust), that pressure increases versus depth at about a sixth the rate it does on Earth.

    So anyway, the Moon has some features that are similar to a couple of the largest PGM and gold bearing deposits on Earth and it allows for far deeper mining than can occur on Earth. Obviously, this isn't something that is going to happen next year, but it's not unreasonable to expect that there will eventually be mining of the Moon for resources that can be used on Earth and elsewhere in the Solar System.

"The one charm of marriage is that it makes a life of deception a neccessity." - Oscar Wilde