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Privatized Moon Mining Appeals To Entrepreneurs

The Space Resources Roundtable, held last month at the Colorado School of Mines, featured 250 participants who all spoke on lunar economic models.


(Depiction of ICON building lunar roads, habitats and landing pads)

The key glue that anchors future moon use is labeled in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. ISRU involves the extraction of oxygen, water and other available materials for cranking out rocket fuel and to "gas up" life-support systems. Then there's pulling out metals on the moon, say to fabricate lunar housing, landing pads, along with other structures and products.

Down here on Earth, uses of simulants that imitate lunar regolith have their limitations for comprehensive testing of off-world machinery. On the moon there are electrostatic charges, radiation, lots of dust, and a scant vacuum. And don't forget to toss in one-sixth gravity for good measure.

Science fiction writers have long imagined mining the moon. See these references for lunar ice mining from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) by Robert Heinlein, lunar mining from Brigands of the Moon (1930) by Ray Cummings and building with lunar materials from The Moon is Hell (19950) by John W. Campbell.

Austrian rocket pioneer and writer Max Valier wrote compellingly about this idea in his wonderful story A Daring Trip To Mars, published in 1931 in Wonder Stories:

The engineer had judged correctly for the ground on which the space ship had landed consisted of ice...

"...Now be quick, get out the solar power apparatus and send it down to us from the air-lock by the crane."


A huge parabolic mirror built of light sheet silver collected the intense heat of the sun and first melted a small amount of ice in a closed container. The water thus formed - which cannot exist free on the airless moon - was heated to boiling, and provided the steam for a little turbine...
(Read more about the solar power apparatus)

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