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Fraser
2006-May-24, 04:45 AM
SUMMARY: NASA's new vision for space exploration hopes to send humans back to the Moon and then onto Mars over the next decades. The Chief Scientist for NASA's Mars Program, David Beaty, has spent more than 20 years searching the Earth for metals and oil, and this makes the right man to help future astronauts survive off-Earth. Astronauts will become more like prospectors, searching the Moon and Mars for reserves of water to make air and rocket fuel. The more they can live off the land, the less they have to bring from Earth.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/prospecting_moon_mars.html)
What do you think about this story? post your comments below.

Dollhopf
2006-May-25, 11:39 AM
Lunar Economics

On the lunar surface we encounter a hostile environment.
But who is "we"? The set of visitors could contain Chinese,
Americans, Russians, Japanese, Europeans, military,
scientists, miners, tourists ... How will they all pursue
their different or competing interests in respect of the lunar
reserves.

Depending on the used technology a water ice fields could
be available for the same demand for two years or for
twenty years. Currently unusable precious materials containing
water or oxigen could be disposed irrecoverably or kept
stored for near future exploitation. The very first steps
of the next men on the moon will trample a path into either
sustainability or to-be dead-end streets.

What is possible need not necessarily be useful with hindsight.
Because the moon is an expensive place to live it could become
even more expensive. If short-term considerations lead to
cheap implementations of singular intentions.

So, if competition among the future owners might prohibit
reciprocal respect, will the single competitors at least follow
long-term interests for themselves? For example, someone involved
in a two month mission on the moon in 2025, may it be a tourist
or a scientist or who ever, would not automatically be interested
in the living conditions of an lunar industrial worker settlement
in 2080. But he already could destroy a lot of possibilities.

The moon could be a diving board for mankind into space, into it's
own future. It could be made a well fortified outpost on the
New Frontier. It could become significant for the acquisition of
viability of the species far beyond the lost valley in Africa
from where mankind ones arouse.

It depends on technology that is well balanced between efficiency
and effectiveness. Otherwise within a few decades the uncomfortable
lunar adverseness might turn into forlornness.

altizar
2006-May-25, 08:45 PM
Looks like the boys at NASA are deffinately suffering from the "We lived on a large body" so we have to get our Resources from a large body type of mentality. I would think they are overlooking some of the more abundant sources of materials in the solar systems. Like asteroids and comets. Which would you rather spend money on very expensive exploration of the lunar surface looking for Ice, or significantly cheaper rocket fuel to fly out to a comet grab what you need, Or possibly the comet itself and bring it back. And why mine on the moon by drilling shafts? Take an asteroid set up a solar concentrator and melt down the slag and harvest the minerals you need, then ship them back. In either case I still think there is some work needed to be done on creating self-contained, self-sufficient environments.

JonClarke
2006-May-26, 09:06 AM
If you living on the Moon and Mars it makes more sense to look for resources there to support these activities, rather than in comets ands asteroids.

Jon

altizar
2006-May-26, 07:09 PM
If you living on the Moon and Mars it makes more sense to look for resources there to support these activities, rather than in comets ands asteroids.


You left out the most important part of your response. Why does it make more sense?

Let's take the moon for example. Sure you can set up a manufacturing system there but if uses any type of solar energy, then for 1/2 the month every month it's going to be out of operation. You also have gravity to contend with. To move large amount of material against gravity is going to require heavy machinery. If you remove the gravity, then you greatly reduce the amount of heavy machinery required.

Granted the situations between Mars and the Moon will differ quite abit. But with out an atmosphere delivering processed goods from in orbit around the moon is very simple process.

JonClarke
2006-May-27, 05:25 AM
Why does it make more sense?

It will take less energy to move ores or finished products a few km by pipeline, conveyor or truck than it will to move them from asteroids and comets to the surface of Mars which will require extensive velocity changes and guidance systems.

It will be much easier to dispose of waste products on the surface of the Moon and Mars than it will be on an asteroid or comet.

Mineral processing is much easier under gravity than it is in 0G

Infrastructure is concentrated where it is needed - near the Luna or Martian facility, rather than dispersed across the solar system.

Finished products will we available continuously rather than once every few years when there is a window.

The article specifically mentions water, but the same argument can be made for most commodities.

With respect to water, since we know there is water on Mars, in the form of surface and subsurface ice, atmosphereic water, and water of crystallisation. it makes far more sense to use what is to hand, possibly right next to the base, than import it from some asteroid or comet. If there is water at the lunar poles, the same applies.

Jon

JonClarke
2006-May-27, 05:45 AM
I would add that it is very refreshing to see someone talking about resources on the Moon and Mars who actually understands the realities of economic geology, as Beatty clearly does. These four postulates are absolutely fundamental and totally non negotiable.

Postulate #1: "Wishful thinking is no substitute for scientific evidence."

Postulate #2: "You cannot define a reserve without specifying how it can be extracted. If it can't be mined, it's of no use."

Postulate #3: "Perfect knowledge is not possible. Exploration costs money, and we can't afford to buy all the information we want. We have to make choices, deciding what information is critical and what's not."

Postulate #4: "Don't underestimate the potential effects of heterogeneity. All parts of the Moon are not alike, just as all parts of Earth are not alike. So where you land matters."

Jon

altizar
2006-May-31, 02:59 PM
Why I'm not sure that it does make more sense. Let me cover your points with somethings you have overlooked.

"It will take less energy to move ores . . ." Granted that is true for mars, but you also have to include the energy its going to cost to move the Car or Truck from Earth to Mars to begin with, that is going to be a huge amount when compared with moving propellant from it's source to the asteroid or comet. Plus your overlooking some future planning here as well. I don't think that Mars or the Moon will be the only place humans will start creating place to inhabit. There's definately going to be a need/desire of space colonies and we might as well get the "infrastructure" in place to build those from the begining.

Point #2 "It will be much easier to dispose of waste . . ."
Are you kidding me? Are you really serious about that? There's two options here either 1) Leave it where it lays or 2) slap on a little rocket pack and shoot it into the corona sphere of the sun. Whereas on mars, you would have to process it such that it is no longer toxic to humans and doesn't mess up the environment.

Point #3 "Mineral processing is much easier under gravity than it is in 0G"
The only way you can say that statement is through the belief that the way we've been doing things is the only and best way of doing them. I choose to keep an open mind and try to think of better ways to do things. Plus Gravity can be generated in space at any time by induced rotation. On the moons surface, your not going to be able to generate more gravity easily.

Point #4 "Infrastructure is concentrated . . ."
Infrastructure covers a large amount of items. I'm not sure which ones your talking about and which ones would apply. If your talking about construction infrastructure, the again your not looking into the future to far. The construction infrastructure would only need to be there while constructing the base. It would then have to be moved to the next construction area.

Point #5 "Finished products will we available continuously . . ."
This one is just a matter of logistics. Given our government's ability to plan for the future it could be a problem, but any one else such as a 3 year old wouldn't have a problem with it.

Point #6 "Water . . ."
For mars developing water resources would be prudent. But for the moon, I feel the situation is going to be different. Plus again looking ahead, there should be some development made for source of water not located on large solar bodies.

JonClarke
2006-Jun-01, 10:32 AM
That you for breaking this into specific points, it makes it easier for sure.


Why I'm not sure that it does make more sense. Let me cover your points with somethings you have overlooked.

The point that we should focus on is that the article is about supplying water for stations on the Moon and later, on Mars. It's got nothing to do with space settlements or longer term dreams.


"It will take less energy to move ores . . ." Granted that is true for mars, but you also have to include the energy its going to cost to move the Car or Truck from Earth to Mars to begin with, that is going to be a huge amount when compared with moving propellant from it's source to the asteroid or comet. Plus your overlooking some future planning here as well. I don't think that Mars or the Moon will be the only place humans will start creating place to inhabit. There's definately going to be a need/desire of space colonies and we might as well get the "infrastructure" in place to build those from the begining.

Nobody is talking about shipping water from Mars to asteroids or comets, they are talking about using Martian water on Mars. Mining asteroid water for use on Mars makes as much sense as a mining company collecting water on islands A and B for use on island C when islands A & B are more difficult to reach than island C and the water on island C is more plentiful and accessible.

Space colonies are much further down the road and not the focus of the article. There is no real need for them. There is no point spending money on infrastructure, especially infrastructure which will require substantial R&D, until it is needed. We are talking about the Moon and Mars, remember?


Point #2 "It will be much easier to dispose of waste . . ."
Are you kidding me? Are you really serious about that? There's two options here either 1) Leave it where it lays or 2) slap on a little rocket pack and shoot it into the corona sphere of the sun. Whereas on mars, you would have to process it such that it is no longer toxic to humans and doesn't mess up the environment.

Not kidding, stating simple geotechnical facts.

Quarrying and milling rock to extract water produces a larger volume of waste rock than you started with. The lower the water content the larger the waste volume. On a woreld with a gravity field - earth, Moon, Mars, yopu can carry the waste by conveyor to a waste pile and dump it there. Gravity will ensure it stays where you put it.

On a world without effective gravity - all NEOs - this will not happen. You can't "leave it where it lays" the waste will form a cloud of debris surrounding the asteroid, and some of it will escape into a helicentric orbit. This will a major hazard to operations.

No is it practical to "slap on a little rocket pack and shoot it into the corona sphere of the sun" The amount of waste is substantial. if your "ore" contains 10% water then just 10 tonnes of water is going to generate 90 tonnes of waste rock. Moving that into orbit that will intersect the corona is going to require a massive engine and a vast amount of fuel.

On Mars you are simply extracting water from icy regolith or rock, or water of crystallisation. Eiether way you do not produce a waste that is any more hazardous to humans than what you started with.



Point #3 "Mineral processing is much easier under gravity than it is in 0G" The only way you can say that statement is through the belief that the way we've been doing things is the only and best way of doing them. I choose to keep an open mind and try to think of better ways to do things. Plus Gravity can be generated in space at any time by induced rotation.

We do not have the technology to quarry, process or extract water from rocks in zero gravity. In some cases we do not even have any ideas on how to do it. We have no experience in the generation of spin gravity or any real idea on how to transfer materials in industrial quantities from zero to spin gravity and back again. All this could be developed, but it would be a major cost and is completely uneccessary to Mars and hopefully necessary for the Moon.

Remember the whole point of using local resources is to save mass and energy. if the solution requires more mass and energy than the problem, its the wrong solution.


Point #4 "Infrastructure is concentrated . . ."
Infrastructure covers a large amount of items. I'm not sure which ones your talking about and which ones would apply. If your talking about construction infrastructure, the again your not looking into the future to far. The construction infrastructure would only need to be there while constructing the base. It would then have to be moved to the next construction area.

We are not looking at infrastructure needs for the far future. We are looking at water needs for a Moon or Mars station. Therefore it makes sense to concentrate it at the site that is needed. The site itself is likely to be chosen because the resources are there.

Moving stuff round the solar system is expensive. The construction facilities would remain on site and become part of the infrastructure. This is what happens today in polar stations, off shore petroleum facilities, and mining camps in remote areas. The logistic arguments for doing this in space are even stronger


Point #5 "Finished products will be available continuously . . ."
This one is just a matter of logistics. Given our government's ability to plan for the future it could be a problem, but any one else such as a 3 year old wouldn't have a problem with it.

Meaning?


Point #6 "Water . . ." For mars developing water resources would be prudent. But for the moon, I feel the situation is going to be different. Plus again looking ahead, there should be some development made for source of water not located on large solar bodies.

We don't know what the water situation is on the Moon. That is one of the items for research as pointed out in the original article. But water on the Moon on the spot would be vastly more useful than looking for it among the asteroids.

Jon

altizar
2006-Jun-02, 02:38 PM
Let's just think about processing water, I was getting a little lost with your jumping back and forth between water and mineral processing.

First thing about processing water is that it probably will not be a continous process. Through water reclamation and conservation the "bases" will need to be supplied probably once a year, and most likely those re-supplies will be of a fairly small quantity. If I got the gist of what you are saying, you a favoring spending huge sums of money sending up large amounts of heavy equipment to process rock containing 10% water. You are also advocating spending large amounts of money searching for rock bearing water. And that you think it will be cheaper to process tonnes and tonnes of rock than it would be to send a vessel to an already known location that contains water that would only need to be filtered before it was usable.

Your right, your way makes much more sense. (If you really don't care about the taxpayers footing the bill, that is.)

JonClarke
2006-Jun-03, 12:50 AM
Let's just think about processing water, I was getting a little lost with your jumping back and forth between water and mineral processing.

Unfortunately, if you are talking about extracting water that occurs either as very cold ice or as hydrated minerals it is essentally a form of mineral processing. Water is only a fraction of the total mass of water-breaking material. This is the case for asteroids, comets, and quite the Moon. Only on Mars with its water-bearing atmosphere, ice rich regolith and glaciers can it be different, and even on Mars water production in may localities may be a mineral processing exercise.



First thing about processing water is that it probably will not be a continous process.

Continuous operations are generally more efficient than episodic ones, you avoid start up and shut down costs, and you need less storage. Having the plant on site means that you are not adding the risk of supply line interruptions.


Through water reclamation and conservation the "bases" will need to be supplied probably once a year, and most likely those re-supplies will be of a fairly small quantity.

Why do you say the base would be resupplied once a year?

We know approximately what the water requirements are. As you say, with recycling the amounts are modest. If we concentrate on crew needs, water usage in space is commonly listed as ~25 kg per person per day. Assuming 90% recycling, achievable with current technology, that means an additional 2.5 kg of water must be supplied. For a 10 person crew that's 25 kg. That's 9.125 tonnes per year, make it 10 tonnes to allow for losses.


If I got the gist of what you are saying, you a favoring spending huge sums of money sending up large amounts of heavy equipment to process rock containing 10% water.

We know from the Opportunity rover that at Terra Meridiani the rocks average more 10% water of crystallisation. The amount of regolith that needs to be shifted is small. The rocks have a density of about 2.5. To supply 10 tonnes of water per year you could have to excavate 100 tonnes of very soft rock, 25 cubic metres. That is 274 kg and 0.11 m3 per day, rounded to 300 kg and 0.12 m3. A very small loader, massing about 2 tonnes, could do that in an hour and be useful for a multitude of other tasks round a Mars station. the water extraction plant itself would probably mass less than 2 tonnes. Since most Mars mission require about 10 tonnes per person this means perhaps 4% of the total expedition mass. Regolith containing a similar amount of ice could be trated in a similar way, except that you would need to rip before you excavated.


You are also advocating spending large amounts of money searching for rock bearing water.

We know already where the water is on Mars. We don't need to search for it There are polar caps, water rich regolith at high altiude, moisture in the atmosphere. There are also hydrated minerals at Meridiani.


And that you think it will be cheaper to process tonnes and tonnes of rock than it would be to send a vessel to an already known location that contains water that would only need to be filtered before it was usable.

And there you have it. I am advocating one mission to one location that supplies. You are advocating a second mission to supply the first.

I am advocating known technology to process known materials of known water content. You are advocating whole new technologies being sent to unknown locations (which asteroids?) of unknown water content and properties.

In both you would need to process tonnes of material and treat the water.



Your right, your way makes much more sense. (If you really don't care about the taxpayers footing the bill, that is.)

As I do care about taxpayers footing the bill I am arguing that one mission over two, known over unknown technology, known over unknown resources, and a secure continuous over an episodic, supply over astronomical distances simpler and will be cheaper to develop and operate.

Jon