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"[Science fiction] is the only kind of writing that allows you to look at the world we live in and change one piece at a time."
- Frederik Pohl

Lunar Mining  
  Very early (first?) reference to mining operations on the moon.  

Who knew that the moon - Earth's moon - contains deposits of that rare - yet indispensable material, radiactum? And what if someone (perhaps someone on Mars) was already on the moon, stealing this precious ore?

The third building seemed a lean-to banked against the cliff wall, a slanting shed-wall of glassite fifty feet high and two hundred in length. Under it, for months Grantline bores had dug into the cliff. Braced tunels were hewn penetrating back and downward into the vein of rock.

The work was over. The borers had been dismantled and packed away. At one end of the cliff the mining equipment lay piled in a ltter. There was a heap of discarded ore where Grantline had carted and dumped it after his crude refining process had yielded it as waste. The ore slag lay like gray powder flakes strewn down the cliff.

From Brigands of the Moon, by Ray Cummings.
Published by Astounding Stories of Super Science in 1930
Additional resources -

Moon mining has been a popular topic in the last few years. After President Bush announced plans to return to the Moon, arguments for doing so have come thick and fast from moon enthusiasts.

One of the best reasons for going back was found in (among others) sample 75501, collected by astronaut Harrison Schmitt on December 13, 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission. It turns out that University of Wisconsin engineers found - not gold - but helium-3.

It turns out that hydrogen fusion takes place at very high temperatures, requiring a magnetic containment field. Hoever, maintaining a deuterium-deuterium fusion reaction for long periods exceeded the limits of the magnetic containment technology. Substituting helium-3 for tritium allows the use of electrostatic confinement and reduces the complexity of fusion reactors. As a bonus - no high-level radioactive waste is produced, either. Helium-3 will likely mean practical hydrogen fusion.

One fly in the ointment is that mining enough helium-3 to power a city like Detroit for a year, about 220 pounds, would require digging up a 3/4 square mile piece of moonscape to a depth of nine feet.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Brigands of the Moon
  More Ideas and Technology by Ray Cummings
  Tech news articles related to Brigands of the Moon
  Tech news articles related to works by Ray Cummings

Lunar Mining-related news articles:
  - Russian Moon Base Mining Camp
  - Miners! NASA Wants To License RASSOR Excavator
  - NASA Competition To Design A Bucket Drum For Moon Mining

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Space-Based Solar Power A Priority - European Space Agency
Goldilocks Zones Found On The Moon
Spaceships Should Last So Long

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