ASI W9700480r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#96 June 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book

Aboriginal Lunar Production of Glass

Peter Kokh


Foreword - "Natural Production" on Earth

"Manufacturing" is increasingly a strange word, for literally, it means "made by hand". Yet more and more the involvement of human hands is reduced to pushing buttons, sometimes just on a keyboard. But behind the "manu" is still the "mente", the mind. In that sense, we can hardly speak of Nature manufacturing anything. Yet "natural production" of many useful things does occur, and the historical foundations of human economies are rooted very deeply in these natural productions, as opposed to purely human manufacturing. It is very much as if human industry relies on recipes using "not quite from scratch, prepared ingredients". All you fellow bachelor chefs know of what I speak.

Our terrestrial economy owes a great debt to the natural production of sand and gravel, marble, granite, slate, and veins of concentrated metal ores. These handy prepared materials have been naturally produced through the eons by geological processes. And of course, where would we be without those biologically assisted geological processes that have resulted in the natural production, and warehousing, of limestone, chalk, coal, oil, gas, shale, and other fossil derivatives? "Natural Production" - if you will not admit "Natural Manufacturing" - has given our species an enormous handicap, without which, for all our pretentious brainpower, we might still be in the caves or in the forests.

"Natural Production" on the Moon

On the Moon, these particular natural productions have not occurred. Luna is geologically dead, and has been for a long time. That said, Nature is still very much alive on the Moon, and busy, in a way we are sure to find very helpful.

Our outpost construction efforts, at least long term, stand to gain from the natural production of craters, rilles, and lavatubes. When it comes to future production of building materials and processing in general, while the chemical and mineral assets of the Moon would seem very homogenized in comparison to those of Earth, there has been some helpful beneficiation and enrichment. Highland soils are richer in aluminum, magnesium, and calcium. Mare soils are richer in iron and titanium. The splashout from the Mare Imbrium impact event is enriched in the so-called KREEP deposits: potassium, rare earth elements, and phosphorous.

More, we suspect the as yet unsampled central peaks of large craters represent upthrusts of deep mantle material; and that may prove a useful starting point in the production of some useful chemical elements. Finally, we have hope that some of the crater impacts were caused by asteroids rich in elements otherwise scarce on the Moon - like that which caused the Sudbury, Ontario astrobleme, source of much of the world's nickel and copper.

Regolith 1.03

1.00 Nor does the list of prepared lunar assets stop there. Incessant meteorite bombardment through the eons has pulverized the surface to a depth of several meters (yards x) forming a powdery blanket called the "regolith". Because this material is representative of the host lunar endowment, it is a handily "pre-mined" source of most everything we will want to process on the Moon. Thanks to the natural production of the regolith, we won't be "strip mining" the Moon.

1.01 One of the special handy features of the regolith is the presence of a considerable amount of pure "iron fines", unoxidized (non-rusted) iron particles. Some years ago, Seattle LUnar Group Studies (SLUGS) determined that if you excavate a site (for the placement of a soil-shielded habitat), you will find in the material removed, enough pure iron particles from which to build the habitat to be placed in the excavation. This resource can be recovered for the price of a simple magnet. [MMM # 63 MAR '93 "Sintered Iron from Powder"].

1.02 Another special enhanced feature of the regolith is a considerable bounty of adsorbed solar wind gases [MMM # 23 MAR '89 pp 4-5 "Gas Scavenging"; MMM # 38 SEP '90 p 4 "Introductory Concepts of Regolith Primage"], thanks to eons of buffeting of the surface by the Solar Wind, blowing outward from the Sun's surface. Involved are considerable amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, garden variety helium, helium-3, neon, argon, and krypton, all recoverable through the application of a little concentrated solar heat.

1.03 Nor is that all. A third natural production within the regolith has been going on - again for billions of years. The natural production of glass spherules from the heat of micro-meteorite impacts.

Impact-derived Glass Spherules

SOURCE: Planetary Science: A Lunar Perspective. Stuart Ross Taylor. Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, and Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University, Canberra. c 1982 Glass: [Random House Dict.] [1] a hard, brittle, noncrys-talline, more or less transparent substance, produced by fusion, usually consisting of mutually dissolved silica and silicates ... [2] or other ... natural substances with similar properties such as fused borax, obsidian, etc. [Physically, glass is considered to be an extremely viscous liquid. Thus glass is markedly different from both crystal-line and ceramic materials. Transparency or translucency, while common, are not automatic nor essential characters.]

Impact-derived lunar glasses are commonly found as spheres, the rotational shapes assumed by splashed liquids, ranging widely in size. 100 microns [m] in diameter is typical (i.e. about a hundredth of a centimeter or 4 thousandths of an inch). [p. 128] Interestingly enough, this size/shape range are what we find on Earth for algal and bacterial one-celled micro-fossils, though the composition is totally different [p. 134].

The spherules are often flattened owing to the degree of plasticity at the time they "landed". Broken pieces are common as are irregular masses coating larger particles in blotches. The spherules are themselves commonly "cratered" by even smaller micrometeorite impacts than those that led to their formation. Colors range from colorless through pale yellow, green, brown, orange to red, and black, and show a clear relation to refractive index and to chemical composition of the regolith material that became glassified by heat [p. 128].

Some glass spheres have inclusions of iron and nickel of foreign (meteorite) origin. Overall, the glasses are identical in composition to the host regolith material from which they were transformed [pp. 129-133].

These glass spherules are found in all lunar regolith soils, though the percentage by weight and volume varies.

Lunar Glass from other sources

Not all naturally produced glass on the Moon comes to us by way of meteorite impact heating. A primitive basaltic glass is represented in the Apollo 15 Hadley site "emerald green" samples [15425-6], comprising as much as 20% of the soil around Spur crater. And mare-forming basalt eruptions and volcanic fire fountains seem responsible for the orange glasses [74220, actually ranging in color from yellow to black] found on the rim of Shorty crater at the Apollo 17 Taurus-Littrow site [p. 128, pp. 297-300].

Industrial and other uses of glass spherules

Lunar glass spherules are not a starting point for optical glass and optical glass products like window panes and lenses, nor for the production either of high melting point fiberglass or low melting point glass matrix for the fabrication of "glass-glass composite" building component items [the MMM-proposed trade name for this GGC material is "Glax"]. For these things it will be necessary to start from scratch with composition-controlled batches of ingredients. As this will depend on prior processing and production of the relatively pure ingredients needed, such building materials and construction items - as important as their local manufacture are to the goal of lunar settlement self-sufficiency - will be an achievement priority for a later phase of settlement industry.

Glass spherules, given their uncontrolled composition and color, still offer a number of useful product possibilities and applications that will give the early outpost/settlement-to-be an economically significant leg up. Here are some:

The list of capital equipment needed is modest:

As goals of lunar industry and export development, these product lines may seem minor. But together with the use of sintered iron products and regolith scavenged gases, they will work to jump start early and easy industrial diversification, cutting a small but significant part of the import burden, and giving the pioneers a well-deserved sense of achievement.

[EDITOR: INCLUDE THE following paragraph only if you are able to scan in the mentioned logo from the hardcopy]

The Made-on-Luna logo will have humble application at first, but thanks to prior "natural production" and serendipitously provident stock-piling of "not-quite-from-scratch materials", Lunar pioneers will be the beneficiaries of an industrial and economic handicap analogous, if not similar, to those we have enjoyed here on the cradle world. MMM

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