#95 May 1996
Section 22.214.171.124.095.of the Artemis Data Book
by Peter Kokh
MMM #95 - May, 1996
THE CUP IS HALF FULL vs. THE CUP IS HALF EMPTY: Abundant elements (O, Si, Al, Fe, Mg, Ca, Ti) vs. Rare elements (Cu, Pb, Ag, Zn, Au, N, C, H) and the Moon's Split Personality
Q.: Is the Moon's personality better defined by the elements in which it is richly endowed - (Oxygen, Silicon, Aluminum, Ferrum = Iron, Magnesium, Calcium, Titanium) - or, by the elements in which it is critically, strategically deficient (Cuprum = copper, Plumbum = lead, Argentum = silver, Zinc, Aureum = gold, Nitrogen, Carbon, Hydrogen) - ??
Relevant Readings from Back Issues of MMM MMM # 4 APR '87, "Paper Chase" MMM # 6 JUN '87, "Essays in 'M': Missing Volatiles; Methane and 'Mmonia; Minimizing import costs" MMM # 13 MAR '88, "Apparel" MMM # 16 JUN '88, "Glass Glass Composites" MMM # 18 SEP '88, pp 3-4 "Lunar Industrial MUS/cle" MMM # 20 NOV '88, pp 5-6 "Ceramic Houses" MMM # 22 FEB '89, p 2, "Lunar Ores", S. Gillett MMM # 23 MAR '89, pp 4-5 "Gas Scavenging" MMM # 29 OCT '89, p 7 "Possible Lunar Ores", S. Gillett MMM # 32 FEB '90, pp 3-4 "Import-Export Equation" MMM # 38 SEP '90, p 4 "Introductory Concepts of Regolith Primage" MMM # 63 MAR '93, pp 4-10 "Beneficiation of Poor Lunar Ores"; "Sintered Iron from Powder"; "Alloys & Lunar Appropriate Metallurgy"; "Glax"; "Ceramics"; "Color the Moon" MMM # 65 MAY '93, pp 4-8 "Silicone Alchemy"; "Sulfur- based construction stuffs"; "Moonwood: sulfur- based composites"; "MUS/cle Substitutions"; "Stowaway Imports"
It is most vitally important that all those interested in bringing the Moon into an expanded human economy, with genuine settlement of its "magnificent desolation" in the process, understand the exact nature of the challenge facing those who would put lunar assets to good use profitable enough to make their fledgling pioneer frontier community economically self-sufficient. - It is so important, that we risk ridicule in suggesting the mnemonic "names" below of the Moon's alternate chemical personalities - the cup-half-full and the cup-half-empty, respectively.
'Osial Femacati' versus 'Cupbar Znaunch'
Just as millions of astronomy students have successfully learned the proper sequence of stellar spectral types from hottest to coolest, via the insipid ditty "Oh Be A Fine Girl, Kiss Me", so perhaps millions of space development advocates will gain a better handle on the pluses and minuses of lunar assets through these equally insipid and weird "names".
So if you can resist your sense of self propriety and attempt to learn these two ditty names, you won't be sorry! If you can keep the lunar have and have-not element lists straight without such mnemonic aids, fine. Quite frankly, only those who know "the score" will be prepared to help find solutions.
Together the two lists point to the need for a compound strategy of making do, finding workable substitutes, stowaway imports, and out-source development.
The lists are both incomplete, of course. The Moon has other elements in lesser but still sufficient quantities to be economically producible (e.g. Manganese, Chromium, Cobalt, Sulfur, Vanadium, Phosphorus, Potassium, etc.) Likewise, there are other elements in which its share is less than we would like (e.g. Boron). But those above are arguably the most important and most illustrative. Together the two lists point to the need for a two-pronged mutually complementary strategy of making do with workable substitutions, stowaway import policies, and of out-sourcing alternatives.
The suite of available metal alloys will be affected, as metallurgists find themselves constrained to use alloying ingredients that are available on the Moon, not necessarily those they are used to using. Aluminum, for example, is in abundant supply. But on Earth it is customarily alloyed with varying amounts of copper, an insignificant trace element on the Moon. Glassmakers, used to an abundant supply of Boron will have to find other formulae that work. Glazers will not be able to count on lead as a flux and brightener.
For most pioneers, the real differences in how they live will spring from the scarcity of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. What is available will preferentially have to be reserved for the biosphere and food production cycles. That means no paper, no plastic, no wood consumer products. We'll have to make do with glass and glass composites, ceramics, and metals. On the plus side, that will make for a safer, less fire-prone environment. In hermetically sealed lunar habitats, fire cannot be tolerated, cannot be allowed to happen.
An exception may need to be made for next-to-skin fabrics. Cotton or paper would seem to be the most sensible options. They would have to be organically grown and processed so that upon discard, they can be recycled easily back into the biosphere. Fortunately there is much ongoing research in this direction. Naturally colored cottons are now on the market under the FoxfiberTM name.
These strictures will govern the available options for home interior decoration and furnishing. Resourcefulness of artist and craftsman and designer alike should have no trouble rising to the occasion. Fiberglass fabrics can provide color and acoustic benefits. But since they resist abrasion poorly, i.e. do not wear well, they will be confined to walls not floors, to the out-facing sides of sofas, not the seating area, etc.
Sandals will use less organic or synthetic material than conventional shoes. Metals, glass, and ceramics will be adornment staples. Chain mail, a medieval art form still kept alive today by clubs fascinated by period clothing, could make a comeback on the Moon. It would be our recommendation that a lunar settlement library be extraordinarily well stocked in books about ethnic and primitive arts. In many ways the lunar artist and craftsman will have to start over and such sources could provide much inspiration and many resourceful suggestions.
Given the small market of lunar settlers, the extraordinary mass produced variety which we are accustomed to finding in our terrestrial malls and specialty shops will not be available. The role of the amateur Lunan artist and craftsman in customizing plain unadorned stock "issue" items from tableware to clothing to home furnishings will be critical. The Lunar settlement will give rise to an unprecedented renaissance of arts of all kinds. As a result the Lunan artist and craftsman may enjoy a prestige and place of honor in Lunan society that their counterparts have seldom if ever experienced on Earth.
For gems and jewelry, synthetic carborundum (an aluminum oxide) gems like ruby, sapphire, and emerald will be available, but not diamond which is carbon, nor pearl. Aluminum and stainless steel will replace gold, silver, platinum, copper, brass, and bronze. Small amounts of rich-grained hardwood may be as prestigious in a wedding ring as diamond is to us.
Musical instruments which use brass will need to be redesigned or forgotten. Sound boxes for string instruments will have to be metal, glass, or ceramic. Lunan music should quickly take on a very distinctive new range of sounds. We predict, that after some getting used to, the effect will be pleasing and popular on both worlds.
Say goodbye to plastic toys as we know them. Some easily recycled plastic formulations, color keyed for easy fast sortation, and assembled for easy knock-down, may be allowed given the very short lifetime of toys. There will definitely be more metal and durable glass-glass composite toys.
While we have made great strides through electronics towards a paperless society, that goal is still far off - we now consume more paper than ever. Crude craft papers may be made available for children's art purposes, since these items can usually be recycled fairly quickly. Other organic materials, flour and dough clays, corn husks, seeds, etc. should also be available for "art du jour."
In contrast, serious art will have to rely on inorganic lunar-sourceable media: art glass, ceramics and ceramic glazes, metal, and crude paints made of metal oxide pigments in a suspension of sodium silicate "waterglass", an art form we have personally tried with some success.
These material strictures coming from the Moon's have and have-not dual chemical personality, will also affect import policy. Imports of items made of elements already abundant on the Moon may be discouraged - why import coal to Newcastle? On the other hand, imports of scarce elements may be preferred by tax policy. However, such imports will be tightly steered toward on-the-Moon uses for which they are in most dire need.
The upshot is that the material side of lunar culture will have a very different and distinctive look and feel from the very outset. It may take getting used to, but we think future Lunans will be proud of their success.
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto