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Infographic: Why Would We Mine the Moon?

The Moon contains rich reserves of rare-Earth metals and helium-3

The Moon contains rich reserves of water, rare-Earth metals, and helium-3

Our Moon is more than just some pretty decoration for the night sky and a place to plant a few flags – it’s also a potential source of valuable raw materials that could someday be used for energy and engineering both on Earth and in space.

If you saw the movie Moon (and if you haven’t I highly recommend it) there was a whole lunar base set up for the extraction of helium-3 from the surface. This isn’t some fantasy “unobtainium” element, it’s a very real isotope that’s rare on our magnetically-shielded Earth but common on the Moon, where it can be easily deposited by the solar wind. Helium-3 alone could make lunar mining ventures economically (or at least environmentally) sensible as it could theoretically power nuclear fusion reactors on Earth with virtually no radioactive waste products. (Read more here and here.)

According to a 2009 AFP article “Reserves of helium-3 on the moon are in the order of a million tons, according to some estimates, and just 25 tons could serve to power the European Union and United States for a year.”

But how could we obtain helium-3 and other valuable lunar resources, why do we need them and what effect might those operations have on the Moon we all know and love? There’s an infographic for that, produced by consulting firm 911 Metallurgist and designed by NeoMam Studios. Check out the full graphic below and decide if you think we should be aiming for the Moon…

How Moon Mining Could Work – an infographic by NeoMam Studios (neomam.com)

How Moon Mining Could Work – an infographic by NeoMam Studios (neomam.com)

In fact one of the biggest proponents of mining the Moon has been one of the rare few individuals who have explored it first-hand: geologist and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt.

“Extracting helium-3 from the Moon and returning it to Earth would, of course, be difficult, but the potential rewards could be staggering,” Schmitt wrote in a 2004 article for Popular Mechanics. “Helium-3 could help free the United States – and the world – from dependence on fossil fuels.” (Source: alibi.com)

And for a related infographic on how asteroid mining could help humanity (also produced by 911 Metallurgist) click here.

Source: NeoMam Studios

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on June 11, 2015, in The Moon and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Very, very interesting ideas. I disagree, though, with the assessment that we will simply have to wait until we are up there to fight out all the legalities. I think it would be better to approach lunar mining as a ‘world project,’ with as much consensus as possible, before we fly a bunch of pickaxes up to the Moon. An approach like this could solve more than just energy problems here on Earth; and any success might also be used in other space-related projects, from satellites and exploration, to finding a way to clean up all the debris in our orbit.

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  2. Here’s another vote for Moon being a must-see film for any fan of science fiction movies (it’s among my most highly regarded SF films) or space exploration. It’s all the better for being well-grounded scientifically and for being done on a shoe-string budget.

    Even the HAL 9000 analogue is wonderfully realistic.

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  3. Marcos Passarello

    AS-8000-2003 – Good Governance Principles –

    After get training and coordinating groups of professionals in IRAM (ISO) since 2004, in the Subcommittees in Risk Management, Fraud Management, Information Security and Software Quality was preparation for that in 2011, Banco Patagonia achieved ISO 27001 certification: 2005, as the first Argentine Bank distinguished and then the year 2014 recertify the ISO 27001: 2005 as well as the first Argentine bank to do so, for me it was a double feat as directly responsible for this goal. Continued working on the following standards, ISO / IEC27001: 2013 – “Specifications for Systems Management Information Security (ISMS)”, Internal Audit: ISO 19011: 2011 “Guidelines for auditing management systems” , Technological Risk Management: ISO 31000:2009 “Risk Management Principles and Guidelines.”, BCP- ISO 22301: 2012 “Management systems business continuity” and Incident Management.

    Development: The Importance of information technology

    Information is an asset that, like other important business assets, is essential to an organization’s business and consequently needs to be suitably protected. This is especially important in the increasingly interconnected business environment. As a result of this increasing interconnectivity, information is now exposed to a growing number and a wider variety of threats and vulnerabilities (see also OECD Guidelines for the Security of Information Systems and Networks).
    Information can exist in many forms. It can be printed or written on paper, stored electronically, transmitted by post or by using electronic means, shown on films, or spoken in conversation. Whatever form the information takes, or means by which it is shared or stored, it should always be appropriately protected. Information security is the protection of information from a wide range of threats in order to ensure business continuity, minimize business risk, and maximize return on investments and business opportunities.
    Information security is achieved by implementing a suitable set of controls, including policies, processes, procedures, organizational structures and software and hardware functions. These controls need to be established, implemented, monitored, reviewed and improved, where necessary, to ensure that the specific security and business objectives of the organization are met. This should be done in conjunction with other business management processes.

    Climate change and global warming

    The D-He3 fueled nuclear fusion reaction has long been recognized as long been attractive for generating clean fusion energy. Although aware of its virtues, fusion researchers had despaired of ever using it because they did not know where to obtain He3. Recently University of Wisconsin scientists upon reviewing data on constituents of lunar samples confirmed their suspicion on the presence of He3 in the lunar regolith. He3 originated in the sun and is transported by the solar wind where it has been implanted in the lunar surface over several billion years. It is estimated that about a million tonnes of He3 is stored in lunar regolith. A kg of He3 can generate 10 MW-years of electric on earth, worth 5-10 M$ by present day costs. The benefits for a permanent lunar base from by-products of a He3 mining operation are very impressive. Another paper describes a mobile He3 miner and its implication toward the resupply of a lunar base.

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