Moon ~ Lunar Mining Possibilities

The Minerals and Their Value
(funded by the Department of Defense)
Courtesy: US NAVY

After Apollo, the Moon was not specifically revisited for 22 years, until an unmanned spacecraft, Clementine (funded by the Department of Defense), orbited it to conduct mapping studies between February 19 and April 21, 1994, using UV/Visible, Near IR, and High Resolution Cameras, Lidar (a radar altimeter), and a radar-like unit that transmits in the S-band radio frequency (2.293 GHz, or 13.19 cm wavelength).


Water Deposits
Clementine Makes Controversial Discovery

Clementine made a controversial discovery, which, if proved correct, has major implications for humans returning to the Moon. Its S-band radio unit detected abnormal reflections from the rim of a huge crater (basin) around the lunar South Pole, in areas permanently sheltered from the Sun's rays...

Clementine image of the South polar region, where a large crater lies within the Aitken Basin. Traverses (in green) using a radio signal detected a lower reflectivity zone that may indicate water ice. The red areas are parts of the crater in permanent shadow, which would favor preservation of the ice.

These reflections could be due either to water ice or to some abnormal surface roughness condition. If indeed ice is present in significant quantity, then this precious material (which supplies water needed for life and also oxygen, when broken down by electrolysis) might allow us to establish a manned base on the Moon. Transport of sufficient water and oxygen for long stays is presently beyond our technical capability. -  SOURCE - NASA

Follow up Mission - The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft

Courtesy: NASA/JPL

The Primary Mission

Beginning on January 15, 1998, Lunar Prospector spent one year mapping the entire surface of the Moon from a distance of about 100 kilometers (60 miles). The data collected during this phase of the mission greatly improved on the quality of data collected previously. Among the early returns from the instruments were those from the Neutron Spectrometer indicating significant amounts of water ice at the lunar poles.

The Impact Experiment
Originally, the mission was to have ended with the spacecraft crashing into the Moon when its fuel ran out. As the mission neared its end, however, the suggestion was made to use the crash as part of an experiment to confirm the existence of water on the Moon. The spacecraft was successfully directed into a crater near the lunar south pole, thought a likely location for ice deposits, but no water was detected in the resulting impact plume. SOURCE - Lunar and Planetary Institute (1998)

The first results on Lunar Prospector's detection of ice were released during an exciting press conference, held on March 5, 1998. Around both poles, the neutron spectrometer has indeed detected neutrons, released from hydrogen by natural cosmic ray bombardment of water ice in craters with sheltered shadow zones. The drop in neutrons emanating from the Moon is clearly maximal around the poles as seen in this plot.

The initial estimate of the amount, to be determined more accurately with later observations, is 30 to 300 million metric tons (recent thinking has raised the upper limit to perhaps as high as 3 billion tons). If melted, this larger number would fill a "lake" 10 square kilometers in area (3.1 x 3.1 km) to a depth of 10 meters. Surprisingly, the North Pole region contains about 50% more ice than its southern counterpart. The source of the water ice is probably residues from cometary bodies that impacted the polar regions, forming craters but allowing much of the comet mass to survive embedded in the target. The implications are encouraging for future exploration of the Moon, to the extent that we can establish and occupy a manned base facility over extended time because of the availability of vital water (for consumption and as a source of hydrogen, suitable as a fuel). However, landing in polar regions is technically more difficult but doable. The dream of a permanent observation post on our satellite is now much more feasible. - SOURCE - NASA

U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Transcript

Presenter: Dr. Dwight Duston, Assistant Deputy for Technology, Ballistic Missile Defense Organization;   
December 04, 1996 1:45 PM EST

Subject: Discovery of Ice on the Moon

The water on the Moon reported by the Pentagon is presented as:

Q: What's the presumptive volume of it then, and how did you discern that?

A: As I mentioned, what we can tell from looking at the radar return is roughly the area that is covered by this. Assuming it reflects ice like ice on Mercury -- making that assumption. That's been well looked at. Then in order to see this back scatter effect, this roadside reflector effect; it's estimated that we have to see some number of wavelengths of our radar into the ice. In reviewing the paper, several of the reviewers posited we probably need to see somewhere between 50 and 100 wavelengths. So our wavelength is about six inches. So at the thickest case, it's roughly 50 feet.

Q: That translates to what in volume?

A: We were very conservative in the press release, but if you take basically 100 square kilometers by roughly 50 feet, you get a volume of something like a quarter of a cubic mile, I think it's on that order. It's a considerable amount, but it's not a huge glacier or anything like that.

Q: Can you compare that with something you know?

A: It's a lake. A small lake.

Warning: .GOV and .MIL website links ahead

Original Transcript Department of Defense December 04, 1996

The Clementine Satellite ~ Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory PDF File

U.S. Naval Research Lab Clementine Mission: 1994 Image Gallery Version 2

As a side note, but very relevant to our venture... the old Version 1.5 Navy Clementine Browser had THIS disclaimer on the front page (highlighted in yellow) You can still view that link on the WAYBACK MACHINE HERE

So... Don't go bothering the NAVY Space Fleet with claim jumper disputes!! 

Iron Deposits

Among specialized products were more detailed maps of lunar topography (elevations) and global maps of the distribution of several chemical elements, such as iron (Fe) and titanium (Ti), determined by analyzing reflectance variations at 0.75 m m and 0.95 m m, where these elements absorb irradiation. The Fe map, reproduced below, indicates that, while iron is widespread, its maximum concentrations are in a broad region on the nearside, roughly coincident with the vast lava outpourings into Oceanus Procellarum and several other mare basins.  SOURCE - NASA

Now if anyone wanted to build a base on the Moon, or any other permanent facility, the first thing you would want to do is find a ready source of raw materials. Iron would be something you would need a lot of for structural needs. In the above image you will see the concentration of elemental iron on the surface of the Moon, red being almost 14% in composition. Most of the iron is actually in the form of FeO (reduced iron). The Clementine results when plotted as FeO are below:
Notice where Copernicus is located in relation to these rich deposits! It is also important to note that FeO is iron oxide, more commonly known as RUST... yes you guessed it you need the presence of OXYGEN to turn iron to iron oxide or rust. The presence of water speeds up the reaction, but without oxygen... no iron oxide! So what is causing the iron on the Moon to rust?

Thorium Deposits

Information on the distribution of radioactivity on the lunar surface was one goal of Lunar Prospector. This map shows that the element thorium is highest on the front side of the Moon, mainly in the highlands south of Mare Imbrium. The correspondence with the Imbrium Basin suggests that the basaltic lavas that filled it were enriched in Th. Note that corresponding highland surfaces on the farside are lower. - SOURCE - NASA

Again you will notice that the richest deposits are in the vicinity of Copernicus Crater.

Thorium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Th and atomic number 90. As a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive metal, it has been considered as an alternative nuclear fuel to uranium.

When pure, thorium is a silvery white metal that retains its lustre for several months. However, when it is contaminated with the oxide, thorium slowly tarnishes in air, becoming grey and eventually black. Thorium dioxide (ThO2), also called thoria, has one of the highest melting points of all oxides (3300°C). When heated in air, thorium metal turnings ignite and burn brilliantly with a white light.

Thorium as a nuclear fuel

Thorium, as well as uranium and plutonium, can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor. Although not fissile itself, 232Th will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (233U), which is fissile. Hence, like 238U, it is fertile. In one significant respect 233U is better than the other two fissile isotopes used for nuclear fuel, 235U and plutonium-239 (239Pu), because of its higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed. - Source - Wikipedia

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