Mainland High School
Cutting the Cord: ISTF 07-1726
The Moon's Resources
Though the existence of water on the moon has not yet been proven, this possibility remains. Water is thought to exist as ice, frozen in the coldest regions of moon craters. Hydrogen atoms have also been found near the lunar poles. Because these areas have not yet been explored, this idea has not yet been proven. However, the discovery of water in these craters would lead to a multitude of possibilities including backup resources for Earth’s water as well as the potential for a moon colony.

Samples brought back from Apollo missions proved the existence of oxygen resources. Moon rocks were found to consist of as much as 40 percent oxygen. Also, ultraviolet images brought back form the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed the existence of a mineral known as ilmenite. Ilmenite is made up of titanium and iron oxide which provides oxygen and titanium for use in consumer goods. The oxygen is relatively easy to extract, and can be used for breathing and rocket fuel. Most likely, any initial mining efforts would be for oxygen to sustain outposts on the surface.

Compound Apollo 11 Apollo 12 Apollo 14 Apollo 15 Apollo 16 Apollo 17 Luna 16 Luna 20
SiO2 42.47% 46.17% 48.08% 46.20% 45.09% 39.87% 43.96% 44.95%
Al2O3 13.78% 13.71% 17.41% 10.32% 27.18% 10.97% 15.51% 23.07%
TiO2 7.67% 3.07% 1.70% 2.16% 0.56% 9.42% 3.53% 0.49%
Cr2O3 0.30% 0.35% 0.22% 0.53% 0.11% 0.46% 0.29% 0.15%
FeO 15.76% 15.41% 10.36% 19.75% 5.18% 17.53% 16.41% 7.35%
MnO 0.21% 0.22% 0.14% 0.25% 0.07% 0.24% 0.21% 0.11%
MgO 8.17% 9.91% 9.47% 11.29% 5.84% 9.62% 8.79% 9.26%
CaO 12.12% 10.55% 10.79% 9.74% 15.79% 10.62% 12.07% 14.07%
Na2O 0.44% 0.48% 0.70% 0.31% 0.47% 0.35% 0.36% 0.35%
K2O 0.15% 0.27% 0.58% 0.10% 0.11% 0.08% 0.10% 0.08%
P2O5 0.12% 0.10% 0.09% 0.06% 0.06% 0.13% 0.21% 0.08%
S 0.12% 0.10% 0.09% 0.06% 0.06% 0.13% 0.21% 0.08%
H 51.0 ppm 45.0 ppm 79.6 ppm 63.6 ppm 56.0 ppm 59.6 ppm    
He 60 ppm 10 ppm 8 ppm 8 ppm 6 ppm 36 ppm    
C 135 ppm 104 ppm 130 ppm 95 ppm 106.5 ppm 82 ppm    
N 119 ppm 84 ppm 92 ppm 80 ppm 89 ppm 60 ppm 134 ppm 107 ppm


As you can see from this chart of the average composition of Apollo and Luna samples, the moon has many minerals as well as Helium-3 which can be used in fusion reactors. These minerals are mixed together on the surface in the form of dust. Notice that the moon has large deposits of anorthite, which consists of aluminum, calcium, silicon, and oxygen. Anorthite could be processed to produce ceramics like calcia, CaO, and alumina, Al2O3. Metals are generally found in the form of metal oxides which must be processed by heat, chemicals, and/or electrical current to separate them from their oxide or silicate. This process is known as a "smelter."

Construction materials that can be found on the moon include Platinum Group Metals such as platinum and palladium, which are rare and expensive on earth but are used extensively in consumer products such as jewelry, and razors. Platinum is also used in dental and medical tools, nylon, and glass fiber. Its most common use is in catalytic converters which help to lesson automotive pollution.

Commercialism on the moon would also allow access to resources found in asteroids that collide with the moon. Metal-containing asteroids come in two types: iron and stony. These "metallic asteroid impactors" have been found to leave iron, nickel, cobalt, silicon, magnesium, aluminum, calcium, and oxygen within the lunar crust after collision.





 


Encyclopedia Brittanica Online - Lunar Resources
  http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-54220/Moon

NASA - New NASA Mission to Reveal Moon's Internal Structure and Evolution
  http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2007/dec/HQ_07274_Grail_Mission.html

National Geographic - Oxygen-Rich Moon Minerals May Help Astronauts Breathe
  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/10/1019_051019_moon_oxygen.html

Permanent - Major Lunar Minerals
  http://www.permanent.com/l-minera.htm

Platinum Group Metals - About Platinum
  http://www.platinumgroupmetals.net/userfiles/file/AboutPlatinum_Sept2007.pdf  

Sol Station - Asteroid Mining
  http://members.fcac.org/~sol/station/ast-mine.htm

Space.com - The Resources of the Moon and Beyond
  http://www.space.com/adastra/adastra_moon_resources_050223.html

University of Houston - Mining the Moon
  http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi430.htm


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