Monday, August 01, 2011
it costs US$25,000 per kilo to lift things into space on a shuttle. Thus, whatever is mined in space in the future, it will have to be in high-enough demand to subsidise the cost of launching it.This is especially true for prospecting missions beyond the Moon. A mission to retrieve Helium-3 from Jupiter’s atmosphere, for example, would take ten years, and businesses will likely be reluctant to wait a decade for a return on such a pricy investment, says Genge.
Another potential lunar resource – water – could fuel these future missions into deep space. Orbital scans suggest there are at least a billion tonnes of water frozen on the Moon after impacting in craters of the Moon’s surface – usually in the darker areas where temperatures can be as low as 35 degrees Kelvin.
Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company has already begun operations aimed at mining the Moon within the next few years. The company’s plans for mining and refining operations would involve melting the ice and purifying the water, converting the water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen, and then condensing the gases into liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen and hydrogen peroxide, all potential rocket fuels.
Shackleton CEO Dale Tietz says the water extracted would be used almost exclusively as rocket fuel to power operations both within Low Earth Orbit (LEO) – such as space tourism and the removal of space-debris – on the Moon, and further out into space.
Current commodity prices are that Gold is going at $1630 and ounce and Platinum at $1795 an ounce. In short a vehicle flying to the Moon and launching back would make a gross profit of about $300 million a trip.
Obviously Gold has gone up and down but not so Platinum we are facing a serious shortage in this industrial metal.
All the heavy metals on Earth were orifinally asteroidal. Finding where asteroids landed on the Moon is obviously infinitely easier than on our weather beaten planet.