Sunday, May 31, 2009

Spudis: The not so barren Moon

Dr. Paul Spudis checks in to remind us of something soft-spoken Dr. Harrison H. "Jack" Schmitt has quietly been insisting upon since at least as long ago as the Lunar Prospector mission. Regardless of whether we prove water is abundant on the Moon, we already know with far more certainly that hydrogen is is there, and it is also available in the same Near Side basins where titanium oxide and iron oxides are located (and where Helium-3 probably makes up twenty percent by weight of the surface layer.)

From the his new blog posting at The Once and Future Moon
Smithsonian Air & Space

Can we be "resourceful on the Moon? (Part 1)

"It’s often said that the Moon is resource-poor. That is inaccurate; the Moon is resource different. It is depleted in volatile substances (those that have very low melting points). The most important rare resource on the Moon is hydrogen. The Moon itself has very little of this element, but the soils have a great deal of it; because the Moon has no atmosphere or global magnetic field, the stream of protons from the Sun (the solar wind) implants hydrogen onto the surface of the dust grains on the Moon. This solar wind hydrogen can be released through heating of the dust. When you have both hydrogen and oxygen, you have air, water, and rocket propellant."

"The typical hydrogen concentration in most soils is 20 to 100 parts per million. This is enough quantity to extract and use, especially if much of the mining and processing work is done through robotic machines operated from Earth. Hydrogen appears to be present in higher quantities in soils that have high titanium content, which are abundant on the lunar near side (the Apollo 11 landing site has one of the highest titanium contents found on the Moon to date)."

(That's true, by the way. No question.)

"Now there are even more exciting resource prospects. The Moon has abundant hydrogen at the poles, enriched by more than a factor of three over the global average. Some of this hydrogen, present in the permanently dark and cold floors of polar craters, may be in the form of water ice. Additionally, with the spin axis of the Moon perpendicular to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, some peaks near the poles appear to be in near-permanent sunlight, permitting continuous collection and use of solar electrical power, as well as the important benefit of a near constant surface temperature."

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