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 Post subject: Mining on the Moon
PostPosted: Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:43 am 
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Scientists work to colonize space
Hurdles loom before Hawking's goal realized
Needs include oxygen, water, food at outpost
Jun. 19, 2006. 07:31 AM
SCOTT SIMMIE
FEATURE WRITER

It sounds more than a little like a science fiction flick.

Human beings, colonizing a distant planet, in order to escape a potentially doomed Earth.

Last week, one of the world's most renowned astrophysicists outlined precisely that scenario. Speaking in Hong Kong, Stephen Hawking said, "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species."

Within 24 hours, his comments had prompted more than 2,000 responses on http://www.thestar.com — with people split fairly evenly on whether this was a good or bad idea. Some were skeptical.

While there are no immediate plans (nor is there the technology) to "colonize" some distant planet in the way Hawking described, some of the stepping stones for a long-term presence on the surface of the moon and beyond are the subject of serious scientific efforts.

Just last fall, NASA released a major report outlining the architecture required for its goal of establishing "a continuous human presence on the lunar surface to accomplish exploration and science goals ...

"The primary purpose of the mission is to transfer up to four crew members and supplies in a single mission to the outpost site for expeditions lasting up to six months. Every six months, a new crew will arrive at the outpost, and the crew already stationed there will return to Earth."

The space agency hopes to be able to accomplish this shortly after 2020 — when the first manned expedition is set to return to the moon.

Before this can happen, however, there are massive technological hurdles to overcome. It's not so much about getting there — we were able to do that in 1969. It's about staying there.

"To put a human colony of four or five scientists on the moon for any extended period of time, it's necessary to figure out how to produce the oxygen and water and propellant that might be required for simple life support, largely because it's too darned expensive to get it all the way from Earth and stockpile it there," says Dale Boucher, director of research and development at the Sudbury-based Northern Centre for Advanced Technology.

"So we have to figure out a way to do that. And right now, the only way to do that is to mine it out of the ground — out of the sub-surface sections of the moon."

It's known as In Situ Resource Utilization. Without it, a long-term human presence on another planet is considered unlikely, if not impossible.

To that end, the technology centre has been instrumental in linking some of the key players in Canada's mining industry with some of the top minds on space. Earlier this month, its annual Planetary and Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium attracted some 100 delegates to Sudbury, including experts from the Canadian Space Agency, NASA and the European Space Agency. Main sponsors of the event included giants INCO and Falconbridge.

"There's not a direct connect between space exploration and mining, until it's explained that mining is a requirement for any kind of human colony," says Boucher.

The technology centre has been working with NASA on a technique to extract water and hydrogen (needed as propellant) from simulated lunar "regolith," or fake moon dirt. NASA is also offering a $250,000 (U.S.) prize for anyone who can squeeze 2.5 kilograms of oxygen out of 100 kilograms of the same stuff.

But where do you find that fake dirt?

Melissa Battler, doing a masters in planetary geology at the University of New Brunswick's Planetary and Space Science Centre, has been working more than two years with the technology centre and others to produce a terrestrial version of dirt nearly identical to what's found on the moon's highlands.

"There are lots of people studying this, and lots of progress being made," she says.

Okay. Water you can drink. Hydrogen you can use as fuel. But you can't eat moon rocks.

"Food drives the equation for how long and how far away you can go from Earth," says Mike Dixon, professor and chair of the biology department at the University of Guelph.

"Mars is six months away, so you've got to take enough groceries for two or three years." And that, he says, is impossible.

Yet here, too, work is being conducted that may enable long-term human habitation. Dixon is also director of the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility at Guelph, where plants are grown in hypobaric chambers that can simulate the lower (or non-existent) atmospheric pressures found outside of Earth's cocoon.

"The main question we're asking is: `How can you grow food crops in the strange environments that we will encounter when we go to the moon and Mars?'" he says.

Dixon has already found that plants can be grown down to 10 per cent of Earth's atmospheric pressure.

Melissa Battler believes there's another reason for colonizing space that transcends Hawking's rationale.

"My biggest personal reason is because — and this sounds cheesy — it's almost our destiny to do so," she says. "We're humans. We're explorers. This is what we do."


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:45 pm 
I've always wondered whether it would ever be feasible to mine other planets. Can you imagine the precious metals that are just sitting out there, untouched?


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:11 pm 
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Location: Within 60 Miles of the Northern Anthracite Field
yes and maybe veins of coal that rival the pa tunnel :D

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 1:46 am 
:lol: :lol: :lol: Can you imagine? Prehistoric Martian swamps!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 14, 2006 5:45 pm 
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That would be funny, but in all seriousness, there probably is a great deal of valuable ore available on the moon which is just waiting to be mined out. At some point it will probably be profitable to mine from the moon. It will be difficult to say if the mining would be done to bring the minerals back to earth, or if it was used to colonize the mone..

Miner Greg


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 16, 2006 12:28 pm 
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I can just imagine the diamond mining operations on Neptune and Uranus... That would really be wild to discover that the evidence of life once on Mars is now buried in coal-like seams underground. There are many mysteries to the solar system yet to be found, let alone the universe. Our greatest mine revolution may be yet to come.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 9:40 am 
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That would be something, finding coal seams under the ground in Mars. That would change the whole outlook on the solar system. That would be the biggest discovery ever. But it is sure possible that you could find minerals on other planets in abundance where it is very rare here.

Imagine Gold outcrops on the moon where it is just everywhere. I guess it could kill the value of Gold if you follow the supply / demand curve. But then again, I don't know if I believe in the supply / demand curve anymore looking at gas prices.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:46 pm 
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I was researching slate quarry style cableways and came across a reference to a similar system in a 1967 NASA report about lunar mining. A diagram of the system is on page 25 of the PDF at:
ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670012843_1967012843.pdf


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:56 am 
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Mining out on the moon would probably be most useful if there were a colony on the moon which would be able to utilize the material. Transporting Iron or anything like that back to earth would just be too expensive. But coming out with ways of using local resources of the moon to support yourself would be beneficial to survival outside of the earth..


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:02 pm 
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Location: Hard coal region, PA
they're going to find veins of petrified people

:shock:

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 11:59 pm 
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Location: Harveys Lake
or just some white powder junk =)

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