Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Moon mining Posted by Picasa
This is a simple concept drawing from NASA depicting relatively low-tech methods for mining lunar regolith. I’ve found that when I mention moon mining, people tend to dismiss it as science fiction, but it seems that this attitude is entirely because people tend to have false expectations, possibly because of what popular culture has presented us with.

So when you hear about how NASA or someone else is planning to establish lunar bases and mining operations on the moon by around 2020, don’t imagine some fantastic scene straight out of Stanley Kubrick’s mind. Instead, take a look at what they are actually planning: simple bucket drag line systems that scoop up the lunar surface material, and then using solar ovens they will bake out the oxygen to be liquefied and stored for later use. In other words, they are going to use established technology and learn to “live off the land”.

Unlike Apollo, future moon missions will not be a race to simply land and return a few samples, but a slow progression to establish permanent infrastructure and allow for ever more ambitious missions in space down the track.