Will Humanity Mine The Moon For Titanium?

Posted by on Oct 11, 2011 in Moon, NASA, Science | 1 comment

Apparently silver isn’t the only thing Earth’s nearest neighbor harbors upon the surface. Astronomers have discovered another element which could aid lunar settlers in their quest to conquer the Moon.

A new map of the Moon has revealed an abundance of titanium ore that is up to 10 times richer than on Earth, a finding that could one day lead to a lunar mining colony, astronomers said on Friday. [...]

 

“Lunar titanium is mostly found in the mineral ilmenite, a compound containing iron, titanium and oxygen,” they said.

 

“Future miners living and working on the Moon could break down ilmenite to liberate these elements. (Moon Daily)

Aside from the obvious uses of titanium (i.e. planes, rockets, buildings, etc.), the strong light weight element is also the metal of choice for surgical implants (as titanium is able to remain harmlessly within the human body for decades).

Although titanium alone will not convince humanity for the need to settle the Moon, it’s presence (along with the discovery of water and the ability to extract oxygen from lunar soil) will probably add to the case of inhabiting Luna first before our species decides to conquer more ambitious objects (like Mars and Callisto).

(Image: Titanium Crystals, Credit: Heinrich Pniok)

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Moon First: X-Prize And Bigelow Aerospace Explain Why

Posted by on Jan 13, 2011 in Moon | 3 comments

When it comes to planetary destinations within our star system, the two loudest voices within the space community are the Moon first crowd and the Mars Direct group.

While both groups often lay out strong opinions as to why their white or red world should take priority, lunar lovers will rejoice in the fact that a notable billionaire is advocating Earth’s nearest neighbor first, along with another influential figure.

“The moon is the perfect ground to get our feet wet for Mars,” said space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, which is aiming to put private space station modules in Earth orbit.

In fact, our chances of making it to Mars could ride on whether we go back to the moon first, proponents say.

“The moon is the only logical first destination,” said William Pomerantz, senior director of space prizes at the X Prize Foundation. “It only makes sense to use the moon as a testing ground and proving ground and staging ground for missions to Mars and other parts of the solar system.” (Space.com)

Other advocates mentioned the Moon as a priority due to not only its proximity (as it’s 3 days away via rockets vs 6 months for Mars), but also due to the enormous amount of rare earth metals within its soil (not to mention silver too), as well as the holy grail of space advocates, helium-3.

The Moon also boasts millions of gallons of ice water, making the cratered barren world livable for future settlers and industrial miners.

Excusing all of these arguments, perhaps the greatest reason for visiting the Moon before Mars can be summed up in one word: cost.

Although Mars is much more aesthetic to the eyes, visiting the red planet is currently beyond the budget of any terrestrial government, which might explain why most space faring nations like China are intent on visiting Earth little sister instead of the distant crimson world.

While humans will eventually visit and conquer the red planet in the future, unless someone has a few hundred billion dollars lying around, it looks like humanity will be greeting Luna first on their quest to conquer the cosmos.

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Canada Building Rover To Survive Lunar “Pot Holes?”

Posted by on Dec 1, 2010 in Canada, Moon | 0 comments

Despite being out shined by its rowdy neighbor to the south, Canada has its own plans of conquering the lunar frontier.

In an attempt to easily navigate upon the cratered surface of the Moon, a Canadian university is developing wheels for their upcoming rover that could enable to country to literally drive almost anywhere off world.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Peter Radziszewski is leading the team as part of an $11.5-million contract awarded by the Canadian Space Agency to Neptec Design Group.

“My students and I are thrilled to be on the Neptec Rover Team (NRT) as it will allow us to advance our earlier prototypes of lunar-friendly wheels and make a significant and innovative contribution to Canada’s space program,” said Radziszewski. [...]

Radziszewski and his team began working on developing wheel prototypes in 2009, one of which – dubbed iRing – is made of an external chainmail “fabric” filled with granular particulate matter; sort of like a metal bean-bag chair shaped like a wheel. This distinctive design provides both flexibility and sturdiness when travelling over extremely bumpy lunar terrain. (Physorg.com)

This wheel sounds even better than the Lunar Tweel being designed by Michelin, as it would enable colonists to quickly traverse across the barren landscape without experiencing massive amounts of whip lash (which isn’t exactly healthy for the neck).

Such technology could also be adapted for rovers upon other worlds (like Callisto and Mars), which would help encourage settlers to explore their new global homes with greater ease.

While it’s great to see Canada contributing to humanities quest to conquer our star system, hopefully the nation will also consider building a human rated rocket launcher of their own (as NASA may not exactly have the funds to ferry Americans and Canadians off world in the future).

Image: The 8-inch iRings wheels demonstrating compliance using a rover testbed Credit: Brad Jones / Neptec Design Group

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Silver Discovered On The Moon?

Posted by on Oct 21, 2010 in Moon, NASA | 0 comments

Despite finding an abundance of water upon Earth’s nearest neighbor, NASA has unveiled that the Moon also contains trace amounts of silver as well.

Another intriguing result was the variety and amount of other substances inside Cabeus.

LCROSS and a sister probe, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), found evidence of all kinds of compounds, including elemental hydrogen, carbon monoxide, ammonia, methane, mercury, calcium, magnesium and silver. And these materials made up a surprisingly large chunk of the crater floor.

“Where we impacted, up to 20 percent was something other than dirt,” Colaprete said. “It was ices, volatiles, light metals. That was a surprise, that you had so much of this material in there.” (Space.com)

While Cabeus’s true wealth lies in the fact that the crater contains an abundance of water, the fact that silver exists on the lunar surface is good news as it gives future settlers a potential means to form their own monetary system apart from Earth.

Although it’s doubtful that we will see a “silver rush” to the Moon (as settling the off white world will cost billions), the valuable metal could aid lunar colonists in the electronics arena as silver is an excellent conductor of electricity.

(Image Credit: Wikipedia)

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Could Solar Wind Power Martian And Lunar Colonies?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2010 in Energy, Mars, Moon, Solar Essay | 0 comments

When it comes to settling our nearest neighbors, both Mars and Luna (aka the Moon) present unique challenges as far as energy goes.

Although one could always import numerous mini-nuclear reactors upon each respective world from Earth (controversy aside), it may make more sense to rely upon the fiery breathe from our Sol star.

Instead of physically rotating a blade attached to a turbine, the proposed satellite would use a charged copper wire to capture electrons zooming away from the sun at several hundred kilometers per second.

According to the team’s calculations, 300 meters (984 feet) of copper wire, attached to a two-meter-wide (6.6-foot-wide) receiver and a 10-meter (32.8-foot) sail, would generate enough power for 1,000 homes.

A satellite with a 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) cable and a sail 8,400 kilometers (5,220 miles) across, placed at roughly the same orbit, would generate one billion billion gigawatts of power.

That’s approximately 100 billion times the power Earth currently uses. (Discovery News)

Although this idea is being proposed for usage upon our home world, it might be easier (not to mention wiser) to adapt it to power future colonies upon the Moon as well as for Mars.

Even though the first explorers of Mars and Luna will use solar power to help keep the lights on, using our Sun’s solar wind could allow us to power cities without having to rely upon nuclear fuel imports from Earth.

Perfecting this technology would allow Lunar settlements to operate during the 2 weeks of darkness while Martian outposts might be able to transform one of their asteroid moons (preferably Deimos) into a gigantic power station that could help power Martian cities every few days.

While it’s skeptical that something like this would be allowed near Earth (due to the environmental consciousness of our global governments), it would make more sense when used for off world colonies upon Luna, Mars and beyond.

(via MSNBCImage Credit: NASA and the Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics)

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India Giving Lunar Data Away For Free?

Posted by on Sep 6, 2010 in India, Moon | 2 comments

After helping humanity rediscover over 600 million metric tons of lunar water, India has decided to “open source” its data by releasing it to the public.

“People will have free access to the huge data obtained from our first moon mission on a web portal that will be launched by this year-end,” a senior scientist of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said here.

“The data has been split into two seasons, with the first dealing from November 2008 to February 2009 and the second from March to August 2009. The first season data will be archived by year-end and the second by mid-2011,” said ISRO’s space application centre director B Gopala Krishna. (Moon Daily)

This data will be invaluable to researchers, who will be able to not only pour over ISRO’s findings, but hopefully construct detailed maps of the lunar surface.

India’s generosity will hopefully encourage other nations (like China) to also share their data, which could help foster a spirit of cooperation (instead of competition) in our attempts to conquer the final frontier.

(Image Credit: ISRO)

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