ASI W9700506r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#104 April 1997

Section the Artemis Data Book


IN FOCUS: ICE on the Moon - Strategic Reserve, Strategic Choices

Most articles and commentaries dealing with the Clementine bistatic radar experiment evidence of "a" field of water-ice deposits in a south polar permanently shaded crater point to the significance of the find as a resource to be tapped for making cryogenic rocket fuel - specifically liquid hydrogen since liquid oxygen can be produced from lunar soil at virtually any site. A few such reports add as a footnote that water could be useful for life support.

Distinctions have to be made: life support is impossible without water for food production and vegetation-based biospheres, drinking and hygiene. This use is largely recyclable, waste water filtered or treated to the point it can be used for plants; the plants transpiring humidity into the air; dehumidi-fiers drawing absolutely pure and potable drinking water out of that air to restart the cycle. Water can also be recycled in most industrial uses, even though, on Earth, it all too frequently is not.

Disassociated by electrolysis or solar power into oxygen and hydrogen for rocket fuel, however, it is used once, and forever lost. Fortunately, there are substitutes: anhydrous fuel combinations like liquid oxygen and powdered metal fuels (iron, aluminum, magnesium, calcium are all theoretical possi-bilities, with powdered iron by far the easiest to produce in an upstart outpost operation.); and hydrogen extenders: for example silicon, in the methane analog liquid "silane", SiH4.

So the question arises, if these ice deposits are rather skimpy, should they not be reserved for uses for which there are no substitutes? The rocket jocks (spade-calling time), many of whom (if the shoe fits ...) give no more than lip service to eventual resource development and the establishment of real settlements to support them (not confident that the economic rationale exists to make it happen) tend to be protective of the extravagant one-time use for rocket fuel to support admittedly more exciting and more near term space exploration type activities. They argue that the hydrogen, even if all used up in this fling, can be replaced with volatiles harvested from comets, as if, even though true, this were easy and cheap to do. "Hydrogen is the most powerful fuel" - true on paper, not necessarily in practice, as it is the least dense of all fuels, needing very large, proportionately heavy tanks, out of which it loves to leak (why shuttle external tanks are not fueled until just prior to departure time). We do need all that lift to boost heavy payloads out of Earth's deep gravity well. We may need it to boost payloads out of Earth orbit, even from the vicinity of the Moon, destined for the outer solar system. We certainly do not need that kind of oomph to lift payloads off the Moon, bound for Earth, low Earth orbit or geosynch-ronous orbit or for the L4 or L5 lunar co-orbital Lagrangian fields. these various points made, tempering reason is needed in several doses:

This said, we reject the claim that we have "no right to decide what future lunar settlers will want us to have done" with this unique resource in this, their prehistory. "They might" want us to blow it all on exploring the solar system, willing to go fetch ice from occasionally passing comets and asteroids when they need a drink, or a bath, or their plants are drying up. Without intending to introduce the same polarizing emotion that attends the abortion debate, we must protest, that if we don't speak for the unborn - in this case the lunar settlements - who will?

Our recommendation is this. We are not yet in a position to use the lunar ice in any way. So:


Clones and the Space Frontier

Clones, a standby staple of science fiction writers for generations, are suddenly not science fiction anymore. Forget the stale nightmare visions of Nazi supermen. Clones may have an entirely different range of usefulness in opening the space frontier. Tom Heidel tells us what clones are, and what they are not, and how your clone "may someday boldly go where you have never gone before". See the essay by Thomas Heidel below.

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