#22 February 1989
Section 126.96.36.199.022.of the Artemis Data Book
Stephen L. Gillette Ph.D., a consulting geologist from Pasco, Washington and who receives MMM via Seattle L5, offers the following comment on MMM # 19 (Oct '88) "Colonists' IQ Quiz", question 5:
The "fact" that there are no enriched deposits on the Moon is merely a bit of conventional wisdom. Granted, the Moon does not have the bewildering variety of processes, many water dependent, that Earth does. Nonetheless, not all ore-forming processes require water, and such processes will work just as well on the Moon as here. Examples include: (a) Layered igneous intrusions, in which crystals settled out of a large body of cooling magma in successive layers; the Bushveld intrusion in South Africa, source of much of that country's mineral wealth, is a classic example. (b) Liquid immiscibility in a magma, in which the magna "unmixes" into two separate liquids, like oil and water. This can happen in silicate-silicate, silicate-oxide, and silicate-sulfide systems, and all are potentially of economic value.
In addition, although Earth-type hydrothermal deposits are not likely on the Moon, because of the absence of water, analogous late-stage magmatic fluids might occur with halogen or sulfur-rich compositions instead. For would-be lunar miners, laboratory investigations of anhydrous silicate melts is an obvious step we can take right here on Earth, to indicate what might occur. Earth magmas always contain some water, and so we don't have a good feel for how water-free melts might behave.
We must remember that mineral deposits are rare on Earth, too; we've been scouring Earth for millennia, and are still finding new ones! The Moon, although simpler than the Earth, is nonetheless a much more complicated body than is sometimes realized, and it is virtually certain to have local anomalous concentrations of useful materials.
EDITOR'S COMMENT: I had been aware that the lunar magmas cooled differentially and that various immiscible phases settled out, but was of the impression that the mineral variety thus afforded was not of much economic significance. It is good news that such is not the case and that the Moon's apparent homogeneity may be somewhat superficial. This gives increased importance to both orbital and in-the-field prospecting, which will certainly make the Moon a far more interesting and varied place to live and work, possibly supporting a number of small settlements. Also important is the possibility of Sudbury-like 'astrobleme' deposits of meteor-delivered ores such as nickel and iron. Orbital resource-mappers and a more careful photographic survey may give some clues as to where to look. At the same time it should be kept in mind that at any one given site, as much as half of the surface material is locally foreign -- imported as splashout debris from impact sites elsewhere on the Moon. Present mining plans are only for loose surface layers. When we start probing below this loose regolith, exciting finds may be made.
by Peter Kokh MMM - 1/89
In MMM # 20 "STATION MATE", we reported and commented on a 1988 Space Studies institute brainstorming Lunar Systems Workshop session that addressed commercial and entrepreneurial opportunities in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In this article we'd like to report on the work of another team at this same workshop, this one addressing Lunar Surface Operations. The team budded a Quick Payback Subgroup consisting of Edward Bock of General Dynamics, Gregg Maryniak and Rick Tumlinson of Space Studies Institute, Robert Temple of Pacific Institute, and Brian Tillotson of Space Resources Associates of Seattle. The group's goal was the same: 'to create one or more scenarios or business plans for the productive use of lunar materials', guided by the 'philosophy that independent, profit-making space businesses could provide a robust, non-reversible course into space.'
In particular, the Quick Payback Subgroup looked for openings for economic gain from early precursor missions prior to actual human return to the Moon and establishment of a Lunar Base. In this way, the path back to the Moon could be 'terraced' with economically justifiable steps that would both guarantee and hasten the ultimate goal of using lunar resources to build a space-based civilization.
The first product or export to be gained from precursor missions would be salable information. A three tier scenario was outlined in which the information product from one mission would help bootstrap the next mission.
The first mission would entail a one-way lunar lander with a ten [metric] tonne payload to include six small teleoperated rovers weighing four tonnes together, a two tonne pilot liquid oxygen production plant, three tonnes of avionics, and one tonne consisting of TV cameras and transmitter, a robot arm and hand, and a demonstration electrostatic or electromagnetic iron beneficiator.
The purpose of the teleoperated rovers is, of course, soil sampling and site investigation. But before they are deployed to their first target assignments, 'income could be earned by a teleoperated rover race' between individuals on Earth from companies that will have built them 'for free for the promotion value', or between teleoperators who will have bid on the rights to participate in this "race of the millennium".
This form of prior sale will cut the costs of such a mission to $200 million about half of which would go to Energia-class heavy lift vehicle transportation. The camera equipped rovers could earn additional revenues by providing moving pans of lunar landscapes for movie productions and as backdrops for commercials, with a capacity for 'live' footage.
The next mission would be more ambitious and include a 1.5 tonne sample return of lunar material [the sum total of Moon Rocks returned by the six Apollo missions was 841 lbs or .38 metric tonnes] and also a 2nd generation liquid oxygen production plant with the capacity to process small amounts of lunar glass and iron [included in the lunar soil run through the plant] 'into high value products for sale on Earth, such as lunar iron "coins" and lunar glass "jewelry". The value of such products on a back-home market is highly speculative and depends almost entirely on demand. The group optimistically hopes for a sustainable demand for such coins and jewelry in the $300-500 per carat range. [By way of comparison, this is over 100 times higher than the going rates for gold or platinum. But a check with a local jeweler gives the current (2/'89) price range for diamonds as $1800 to $100,000 per carat depending on quality.] This second mission would likewise deliver 10 tonnes to the Moon, but this time, half of that would consist of the sample return rocket. If the target $500/carat yield is realized, the mission would earn a tidy $750 million against its cost of $200 million.
The third mission would bring up a 3rd generation LOX plant, return fuel and an aerobrake equipped rocket. The mission's purpose would be to demonstrate the profitable return to LEO of a sizable 8 tonne payload consisting of LOX (liquid oxygen rocket fuel) and more made-on-Luna trinkets, with up to $1.4 billion profit at a now slumping $200/carat.
While the payback figures hoped for remain highly speculative, the study does give much encouragement to the expectation that Lunar EXPORT$ can commence prior to human return.
*** [Cf. FIRST STEPS TO LUNAR MANUFACTURING: RESULTS OF THE 1988 SPACE STUDIES INSTITUTE LUNAR SYSTEMS WORKSHOP by Gregg E. Maryniak, Executive Vice-President of Space Studies Institute. The complete report is available for $10 from SSI, P.O. Box 82, Princeton, NJ 08542.]
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto