Low cost lunar and asteroidal lander prospector missions.

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Exoscientist, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. Exoscientist Mathematician Registered Senior Member

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    From this thread:

    SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for low cost trips to the Moon.
    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=112338

    The original architecture was to use two of the 20 mT to LEO launchers currently available with two Centaur upper stages to get a 4 mT Dragon to the Moon and back.

    What can we do with a single one of these launchers currently available? Using a single one of these launchers to carry a single Centaur upper stage we could carry about 1 mT to the Moon and back:
    From the delta-V table, you need 4.04 km/s to go from LEO to low lunar orbit, 1.87 km/s to go from low lunar orbit to the lunar surface, and 2.74 km/s with aerobraking to go from the lunar surface back to LEO for a total of 8.65 km/s delta-V for a single stage making the round-trip.
    Then with a 465.5 s Isp, 20 mT total mass including payload, 2 mT dry mass, and 1 mT payload we get: 465.5*9.8ln(20,000/(2000 + 1000)) = 8,650 m/s, sufficient for the round-trip.

    This would suffice to carry a lunar rover to operate in the permanently shadowed regions of the lunar poles or for an NEO asteroid:

    Lunar Prospecting Robot To Be Field Tested On Hawaii's Mauna Kea
    ScienceDaily (Oct. 14, 2008)
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081014134111.htm

    This university developed robot probably cost no more than a few million dollars. The single Centaur upper stage costs in the range of $30 million. And the 20 mT to LEO launchers cost in the range of $100-140 million, according to the Spaceandtech.com site estimates, for a total in the range of $200 million. This is a fraction of the amount spent by mining interests on exploration:

    Explore Mining.
    http://www.holden.house.gov/comm/explore-mining/exploration/

    This same site also indicates that mining exploration is by nature high risk:

    For any investment venture a cost/risk/benefit analysis has to be made. Compared to the cost already spent by mining interests yearly the cost is relatively low especially for a consortium of mining interests funding the mission together.

    The risk is composed of the risk of the mission failing and of it not finding the high amounts of precious minerals. At least for the asteroid missions the risk of it not finding the high value minerals is low as there are several independent lines of evidence that precious metals are located uniformly on asteroids. So that leaves the risk of the mission failing. Considering the amount of U.S. experience with planetary missions, this risk is considerably better than the 1 in 1,000 chance of success some estimates put on Earth bound mining exploration.

    However, quite important when measuring cost and risk, are the benefits to justify them. The possible benefits are more mineral wealth in a single asteroid than all that mined in all of human history.

    Indeed the likelihood of the high amounts of precious minerals is so good, and the benefits of success are so extraordinarily high, that it would pay to do several missions if there are failures.

    That is for the asteroid missions. However, if such asteroid mining missions are to be profitable then it would be much cheaper if the large amount of propellant needed to carry out the transport could be obtained from the Moon rather than by lofting it from Earth's deep gravity well. Then to insure that propellant could be obtained from the Moon's polar regions sample return missions to the lunar poles would have to be mounted as well. The nice thing about these missions is that the same rovers and spacecraft could be used for the asteroid sample return missions. Then these lunar sample return missions could be regarded as test missions to give further assurance of the technology for returning the samples from asteroids. And if the lunar polar samples show the high precious metal amounts tentatively detected by LCROSS then so much the better.

    As I said to keep costs low these missions should be privately financed. NASA is planning to launch an asteroid sample return mission in 2016. This would not return the samples though until 2023 and is budgeted at $800 million without even launch costs:

    NASA to Launch Asteroid-Sampling Spacecraft in 2016.
    Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior WriterDate: 25 May 2011 Time: 07:10 PM ET
    http://www.space.com/11788-nasa-asteroid-mission-osiris-rex-1999-rq36.html

    When you add on launch costs and considering the usual NASA cost overruns this will probably wind up being a billion dollar mission. Also, since some proposed human missions to asteroids would have a duration of 5 to 6 months, these sample return missions could return their samples in months rather than the seven years planned for the NASA mission.


    Bob Clark
     
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  3. Exoscientist Mathematician Registered Senior Member

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    Note that all the components for such a mission already exist, the launcher, the spacecraft, and the rover. All that is required is to mate them together. On that basis such a mission probably could be launched within a year. Note also all of the U.S., Russia, and Europe have the required 20 mT launcher, and the upper or space stage capable of the space traverse. And China will also with the introduction of the Long March 5 in 2014. Then the question arises, who will be first?

    A common charge leveled at the space program is what is it good for? If the U.S. government fully financed the mining operation then based on an estimated $20 trillion value for the minerals on a single asteroid, this would have enough value to retire the entire U.S. debt(!) Preferably though the U.S. would only be a partial investor to retain the costs savings of a privately financed venture. Even then as a minority investor, the return in value to the U.S. government could be in the trillions.

    However, it may indeed be possible that a fully NASA financed venture could maintain the low costs of a privately financed one - with the right management. I consider the LCROSS lunar impactor to be the perfect NASA mission because it returned such profoundly important results and at low cost, only $79 million without launch costs, which is like pocket change for planetary missions:

    Inside NASA's Plan to Bomb the Moon and Find Water.
    By Michael Milstein
    October 1, 2009 12:00 AM
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/4277592

    LCROSS: A HIGH-RETURN, SMALL SATELLITE MISSION.
    Daniel Andrews, LCROSS PM
    NASA-Ames Research Center, MS 240-3, Moffett Field, CA 94035, USA.
    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20100028203_2010030093.pdf

    Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership.
    Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS).
    http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/474589main_LCROSS_case_study_09_23_10.pdf

    LCROSS rode piggyback on the LRO mission so did not have to pay for the Centaur space stage, but even if you include this that would only be an additional $30 million or so.

    LCROSS Program Manager Daniel Andrews and lead scientist Anthony Colaprete deserve major kudos for using innovative methods to accomplish such a successful mission under cost saving constraints. If we were to have NASA financed asteroidal and lunar prospector landers then they would be my choice to manage those missions.

    Note now that if NASA funded these exploratory lander missions that proved definitively that asteroids or even the Moon contained such extraordinary mineral wealth, then under the principle that the government has the authority to grant mining rights to private companies, the U.S. government could sell these rights for a total of, say, $1 trillion, while only having to have spent ca. $200 million for the lander missions.

    Bob Clark
     
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  5. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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  7. Boris2 Valued Senior Member

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    noooooo. water on the moon is precious and you want to (re)burn it? what will future moon bases do when it is all gone? in fact the moon is a terrible base for going anywhere else. far better to go straight from LEO. the moon is good for a base for science or maybe mining.
     
  8. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    I clipped the following from the article:

    So what you are saying does make a lot of sense. I think these investors have a lot of guts putting their money into this one hell of a project. Then I listen to what Billy T has to say on the subject and he also makes a great deal of sense. Okay I'm glad these billionaires are making this investment and I hope they make one hell of a profit. I really want the human race to become a space going species.
     
  9. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    “… On April 24, 2012 a plan was announced by billionaire entrepreneurs to mine asteroids for their resources. Their company is called Planetary Resources and its founders include film director and explorer James Cameron as well as Google's chief executive Larry Page and its executive chairman Eric Schmidt. …

    The plan has been met with scepticism by some scientists who does not see it as cost-effective, even though platinum and gold are worth nearly £35 per gram ($1,600 per ounce)… NASA mission (OSIRIS-REx) to return just 60g (two ounces) of material from an asteroid to Earth will cost about $1 billion USD. …”
    From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_mining

    “… The {Iron-Nickle asteroids} chemical composition is dominated by the elements Fe, Ni and Co, which make up more than 95%. Ni is always present; the concentration is nearly always higher than 5% and may be as high as about 25%.... “

    “… C-type (carbonaceous) asteroids are hydrated minerals (epsomite, gypsum, clay), tar, carbonates (calcite, siderite, magnesite), and condrules (pebbles). The hydrated material is an excellent source of water from which you can make rocket fuel. The tar might have tiny ice crystals, but only deep in the interior where sunlight couldn't boil it off. Tar and carbonates are a source of carbon which can be combined with iron to make steel. The condrules have other metals that can be added to steel. They also have some iron, but it's oxide minerals which must be smelted. …”

    {Chemical analysis of two C-type, or stony asteroids, that survived to become Earth surface meteorites:}
    B C Mg Al Si P S Ti V Cr (elements. Note only ppm given no % if it is less than 1%)

    0.87ppm 3.45% 9.7% 0.865% 10.64% 990ppm 5.41% 440ppm 55ppm 3050ppm
    0.48ppm 2.2% 11.5% 1.13% 12.7% 1030ppm 2.7% 550ppm 75ppm 2650ppm

    Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Mo Pb
    1940ppm 18.2% 505ppm 1.1% 125ppm 0.92ppm 2.5ppm
    1650ppm 21.3% 560ppm 1.23% 130ppm 1.4ppm 1.6ppm

    Ru Rh Pd Ag Os Ir Pt Au
    710ppb 140ppb 560ppb 200ppb 490ppb 465ppb 1000ppb 145ppb
    870ppb 160ppb 630ppb 160ppb 670ppb 580ppb 1100ppb 150ppb(Platinum & gold data made red. To view better presentation, go to link given below)


    {Note Platinum, Pt, was the most concentrate precious metal at ~ 1 part per million. Gold, Au, and Silver, Ag, were less than 20% of Pt´s concentration.. You may not be surprised that most earth gold mines work with veins of higher Ag concentrations, but say: “Even though the Iron-Nickel asteroid are rare compared to the stony asteroids, the “space miners” get to select one of them. Surely there are several in NEOs.” Well look at the Ag content of many Iron-Nickel asteroids below:}

    MeteoriteType…………….Gold (ppb)……Gold (troy ounces/ton)
    Allan Hills 84233iron …….1070 ..…….0.0312
    Balsas iron …………………927………0.027
    Hvittis (magnetic part)H6….690……….0.0201
    Hvittis (non-magnetic)………15……….0.00044

    {Billy T did not align into columns the rest of the data – go to: http://chapters.marssociety.org/winnipeg/asteroid.html to see well order data and more information.

    Point is that even the metallic asteroids rarely have even 0.01 troy ounce of precious metal per ton of asteroid. (Only the three, first listed above, were exceptions and had more than 0.01 oz / ton in this long list of metal asteroids that have been studied.}

    Fayetteville (light portion)H 210.....0.00612
    Fayetteville (dark) 200....0.0058
    Leighton (light portion)H5 192....0.0056
    Leighton (dark) 251....0.00732
    Leighton (dark) 370....0.0108
    Leighton (dark, crushed after irradiation) 115 …. 0.00335
    Pantar(light portion)H5 .198….0.00578
    Pantar (dark) 180.....0.00525
    Pantar (dark) 202.....0.00589
    Tysnes Island (light portion)H4 254…..0.00741
    Tysnes Island (dark) 211…..0.00615
    Weston (light portion)H 4 240…..0.0070
    Weston (dark) 218….0.00636
    BeardsleyH 250….0.00729
    Beaver CreekH 200….0.0058
    Beaver Creek 280….0.00817
    OchanskH 226…..0.00659
    Ochansk 260….0.00758
    PultuskH 280…0.00817
    Pultusk 60…..0.00175
    MurrayC 202….0.00589
    Murray 170….0.00496
    LancéC 197….0.00575
    Lancé 180…...0.00525
    Lancé 730......0.0213
    Lancé 220......0.00642
    VigaranoC 140....0.00408
    KaroondaC 150.....0.00438
    Tagish LakeC 190....0.00554
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2012
  10. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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  11. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    For comparison with gold concentration in asteroids I gave in post 6 (Typically less than 0.3 grams of gold per TON of asteroid.) Below are some Earth based gold mine concentration. (I have this data as I own 1000sh of OSXLF, but now symbol is OSKFF) which is very large new open pit mine that does not have high concentrations, but does have huge amounts of gold to mine. - Probably is the largest new deposit in Canada. The meters given before concentration data are how thick the gold bearing seam is.)

    . The Canadian Malartic mine reached commercial production on May 19, 2011. Resources for all Malartic area deposits (Canadian Malartic, South Barnat, Gouldie, Charlie, Jeffrey and Western Porphyry) are:
    372.95 Mt @ 1.02 g/t Au for 12.23 M oz gold in the Measured and Indicated category and 50.35 Mt @ 0.71 g/t Au for 1.16 M oz gold in the Inferred Category.

    This number excludes 2011 production and stockpiled inventory (approx. 230,000 oz. Au). Global (in situ) Inferred resources for the Hammond Reef deposit are estimated at 530.6 Mt @ 0.62 g/t Au for 10.52 M oz gold.

    Consolidated diluted in-pit resources for all Malartic area deposits (except Western Porphyry) are 345.49 Mt @ 0.99 g/t Au* for 11.00 M oz gold in the Measured and Indicated category and 10.74 Mt @ 0.69 g/t Au for 0.24 M oz gold in the Inferred Category.

    These numbers also exclude 2011 production and stockpiled inventory (approx. 230,000 oz. Au). Diluted in-pit resources at Hammond Reef in the Inferred category are 336.6 Mt @ 0.63 g/t Au for 6.86 M oz gold.

    The Proven & Probable reserve estimate at Malartic (main pit and three satellite pits excluding Western Porphyry) is 337.67 Mt @ 0.99 g/t Au for 10.72 M oz gold.

    This number excludes 2011 production (approx. 200,000 oz. Au).

    SUMMARY: OSXLF owns many dozens of square miles of near surface gold, easily mined with huge scoops and trucks. It is not "high concentration" as gold mines go, but still more than twice the best known metalic asteroid (now a meteorite) concentration!

    To go to an asteroid to get gold is INSANE!

    * Note 0.99g/t of Au is same as 0.03 troy oz / ton - I.e. the highest (and exceptionally high) concentration of all meteorites listed in may prior post and more than 3 times greater than the average asteroid concentration. Also note this Canadian Malartic mine operation is a very high-volume, low-concentration gold mine! Here is their smelting center being constructed a few years ago:

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    230,000 oz of gold production in 2011 within less than 9 months following start up in May 2011, ain´t bad and now they are just finishing the second rock crusher which will double their production rate!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2012
  12. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    But it is "crazy like a fox" to be organizing these asteroid mining companies:

    Yes there is a “Mine the Asteroids” race on with several rich and famous groups organizing their companies now. However, they are NOT racing to be first to get to a mine operational on asteroid in space.

    Their race is to be first into cyberspace. I.e. get their IPO out and make bundles from ignorant “space is the future” saps.

    A few years later, they can put the new company into bankruptcy, and be safe for law suits trying recover funds on what was obviously (to the well informed) a clever fraud.
     
  13. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Damn! Billy I really hope your wrong about that.

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  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    They want you to, to perhaps even invest a little in the "future" when the IPO comes out.
    Yes that is a very well done promotion (even has an ass covering admission that they may fail, but easy to ignore in all the positive PR) Such as:

    “The project, which will require billions of investment dollars, could yield a trillion dollar reward, as precious metals exist in almost infinite quantities in space.”

    But they do not mention that AFAW(mankind)K, that “almost infinite quantities” is because Space is almost infinite and that compensates for the fact that the greatest concentrations of the precious metals known in space is several times LESS than found right here on Earth!
     
  15. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    I don't want to think that way, but either way they won't be getting any of my money. I'll be watching their progress and cheering on the sidelines when they do make progress, and that's the best they will get out of me.

    I don't play the lottery either.

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  16. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    I didn't see any mention of Helium 3 in the above. Maybe I just missed that somehow.

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    Sometimes the publicly stated reason - however plausible it sounds to many folks - is not the real reason that someone is doing something. Especially real smart super - rich capitalists.

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    These boys are not the only game in town either. When is that hotel supposed to up there? How many space flight companies are in the US now? What are they all planning to do with their space craft?

    I suspect that 'mining asteroids for gold' is merely the stated PR reason for this venture. The fact that China has declared its intent to colonize the moon and that India, Japan and some other countries are rolling ahead with similar plans while the US seems stuck in arguing about birth control while dismantling its space program may well have something to do with this as well. :bugeye:
     
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Yes you missed it. I have discussed He3 several times. Most completely recently in another thread, as follows:
    From: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=2928812&postcount=50
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2012
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Ahem! They do it to increase their wealth (often at the expense of the ignorant). Recent history (last few years) has shown the best way to do that is get an idea that at least sounds good, found a company, and with good PR staff, issue your IPO. Planetary Resources, "the Silicon Valley of Space " has some of the slickest, most professional PR I have ever seen. Skirts very close to out right lies, by misleading statements like: "There is an almost infinite supply of precious metals in space." (Not mentioning, that as far as is now known from chemical analysis of many metal meteorites, concentrations now exploited in some gold mine (on Earth) are more than 10 times higher, but they are not lying because space is almost infinite and even tiny concentrations get large when multiplied by near infinity.) See how slick, professional their PR is in the two videos at: http://www.planetaryresources.com/
    Yes, and I think they will. I do favor a colonization of the moon and told how it should be done here:
    From: http://www.sciforums.com/showpost.php?p=2453468&postcount=91

    *I explained why only fertile women do long duration off the Earth. I.e. sperm from 10,000 men going with them fits inside a 10Kg container and has little energy cost (for keeping it at liquid N2 temperatures) if well insulated (especially as cooling could be only a few days with insulation removed on the dark side of the moon while container can radiates heat to the ~5 degree K cosmic space.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2012
  19. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

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    Billy T

    It seems you have done a great deal of research and thinking on this subject and have formed some very strong opinions. As far as cost go, I'd say you are more right than wrong, and if those billionaires are trying to screw us, it would be better to know about before it gets to far along.

    I personally think it's important for the human race to become a space fairing species and I'm sure I'm not alone in that feeling. However, that same feeling in millions of people could be used by the big players. When you look at all the major economic disasters we've had, it's never the big players that get hurt.

    Where's the government overseers when you really need them?
     
  20. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    In Las Vegas holding a symposium on the subject on the taxpayer's dime.

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    At this stage in the program I expect to see a bunch of entertaining technological fallout from the effort, even if it fails. We shall see more of the Dragon next Monday when it is scheduled to go to the ISS for a robotic docking exercise. The further along they get with that, the more will go into meeting and beating that program from other quarters.

    The discussion I have read on Helium 3 suggests it is in ice frozen in permanent dark area craters. I have strong suspicions that any attempt to choose off world workers based on their sexual preferences is foredoomed to failure....

    .....unless they agree to live satellite uplink video of any and all naked group or individual activities.

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  21. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    The "catch 22" is that the He3 comes to the moon in the solar wind (so supporters say, but I don´t know how much is in the "solar wind"). By time it gets to moon it is not a gas - does not fill the volume available as gasses do.

    It is a set of particles on individual trajectories, with angular dispersion no greater than the sunlight (probably significantly less as when it was more like a gas expanding into space the solar radial direction was the direction of least resistance* - tending to make the particle stream lines quite parallel to radial lines of the sun, I think.) Also the "edges" of the sun do radiate light but not much solar wind to the moon. I.e. at the moon sunlight has about 0.5 degree angular spread, but the solar wind may have only 0.2 dgree angular spread. (just guessing).

    That sort of a proof or a long winded statement that if the He3 "particle beam" can hit spot X on the moon, so can the heating sunlight required to out gas any He3 back into space that is absorbed in there.

    I have never seen a study saying x% of the solar wind is He3, but suspect x < 5% thus there is 20 times (or more?) non-He3 hitting spot X also. These He4 and protons or atomic hydrogen atoms (which the protons will almost instantly become at the surface) will also collide with local mater and heat it but the solar heating is dominate reason I think He3 concentrates are near zero.

    Also note that when spot X which was in the postulated He3 particle beam, and then moves into the moon´s nite area, spot X is still very hot for many hours. By next Earth day there will be no He3 at spot X, even if there was some there an Earth day earlier.

    Again I am more than 99.9% sure there is no economically recoverable He3 on the moon. Probably, if any at all is there, it is on the cold dark side and came from some radioactive decay process and is just waiting for the daylight sun to free it into space.

    * Sort of like the highly directional rocket exhaust is well directed beam made from random directed thermal motions. Said another way: the solar wind is its own radial beam shaping nozzle.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2012
  22. Stoniphi obscurely fossiliferous Valued Senior Member

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    Hmmmm from Wiki at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium-3

    "Materials on the Moon's surface contain helium-3 at concentrations on the order of between 1.4 and 15 ppb in sunlit areas,[40][41] and may contain concentrations as much as 50 ppb in permanently shadowed regions.[3] A number of people, starting with Gerald Kulcinski in 1986,[42] have proposed to explore the moon, mine lunar regolith and use the helium-3 for fusion. Because of the low concentrations of helium-3, any mining equipment would need to process extremely large amounts of regolith (over 150 million tonnes of regolith to obtain one ton of helium 3),[43] and some proposals have suggested that helium-3 extraction be piggybacked onto a larger mining and development operation.[citation needed]

    The primary objective of Indian Space Research Organization's first lunar probe called Chandrayaan-I, launched on October 22, 2008, was reported in some sources to be mapping the Moon's surface for helium-3-containing minerals.[44] However, this is debatable; no such objective is mentioned in the project's official list of goals, while at the same time, many of its scientific payloads have noted helium-3-related applications.[45][46]

    Cosmochemist and geochemist Ouyang Ziyuan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is now in charge of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program has already stated on many occasions that one of the main goals of the program would be the mining of helium-3, from which operation "each year three space shuttle missions could bring enough fuel for all human beings across the world."[47] which is an extreme overstatement however, as one payload to GTO of current spacecraft designs is less than 4 tonnes. To "bring enough fuel for all human beings across the world",[29] more than one Space Shuttle load (and the processing of 4 million tonnes of regolith) per week would be necessary.[citation needed]

    In January 2006, the Russian space company RKK Energiya announced that it considers lunar helium-3 a potential economic resource to be mined by 2020,[48] if funding can be found.[49][50]

    "Mining gas giants for helium-3 has also been proposed.[51] The British Interplanetary Society's hypothetical Project Daedalus interstellar probe design was fueled by helium-3 mines in the atmosphere of Jupiter, for example. Jupiter's high gravity makes this a less energetically favorable operation than extracting helium-3 from the other gas giants of the solar system, however."



    While this doesn't sound promising it appears that it does indeed figure into the current space equation.

    Then there is this, from Popular Mechanics at : http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/moon-mars/1283056

    "Lunar Mining
    Samples collected in 1969 by Neil Armstrong during the first lunar landing showed that helium-3 concentrations in lunar soil are at least 13 parts per billion (ppb) by weight. Levels may range from 20 to 30 ppb in undisturbed soils. Quantities as small as 20 ppb may seem too trivial to consider. But at a projected value of $40,000 per ounce, 220 pounds of helium-3 would be worth about $141 million.

    Because the concentration of helium-3 is extremely low, it would be necessary to process large amounts of rock and soil to isolate the material. Digging a patch of lunar surface roughly three-quarters of a square mile to a depth of about 9 ft. should yield about 220 pounds of helium-3--enough to power a city the size of Dallas or Detroit for a year.

    Although considerable lunar soil would have to be processed, the mining costs would not be high by terrestrial standards. Automated machines might perform the work. Extracting the isotope would not be particularly difficult. Heating and agitation release gases trapped in the soil. As the vapors are cooled to absolute zero, the various gases present sequentially separate out of the mix. In the final step, special membranes would separate helium-3 from ordinary helium.

    The total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about $15 billion. The International Thermonuclear Reactor Project, with a current estimated cost of $10 billion for a proof-of-concept reactor, is just a small part of the necessary development of tritium-based fusion and does not include the problems of commercialization and waste disposal.

    The second-generation approach to controlled fusion power involves combining deuterium and helium-3. This reaction produces a high-energy proton (positively charged hydrogen ion) and a helium-4 ion (alpha particle). The most important potential advantage of this fusion reaction for power production as well as other applications lies in its compatibility with the use of electrostatic fields to control fuel ions and the fusion protons. Protons, as positively charged particles, can be converted directly into electricity, through use of solid-state conversion materials as well as other techniques. Potential conversion efficiencies of 70 percent may be possible, as there is no need to convert proton energy to heat in order to drive turbine-powered generators. Fusion power plants operating on deuterium and helium-3 would offer lower capital and operating costs than their competitors due to less technical complexity, higher conversion efficiency, smaller size, the absence of radioactive fuel, no air or water pollution, and only low-level radioactive waste disposal requirements. Recent estimates suggest that about $6 billion in investment capital will be required to develop and construct the first helium-3 fusion power plant. Financial breakeven at today's wholesale electricity prices (5 cents per kilowatt-hour) would occur after five 1000-megawatt plants were on line, replacing old conventional plants or meeting new demand."

    But then elsewhere I found the current price of H3 from neutron bombardment of lithium to be about $2000/litre. :shrug:

    I think they are going to go for it. They can afford it and the spin - off technology should pay for the investment.
     
  23. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    As Stoniphi said, you can just MAKE He-3 if you want some. So the real question isn't whether or not you could make money selling He-3 from the moon, it's whether or not moon mining can compete with a He-3 factory here on earth. At the moment nobody is deliberately manufacturing large amounts of it because there's hardly any demand for it. I have no idea what price a large-scale He-3 factory would charge, but it's hard to imagine it costing more than stuff from the moon...
     

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