Since the first Apollo missions, knowledge about lunar mining resources has increasingly progressed.
What are the main resources that could be mined from the moon?
Mining top soil is called regolith. Different elements and metals are mixed up in the regolith. Can be found, inter alia:
- Light metals such as sodium, mercury and possibly silver
- Gold, along some private companies such as MoonEx
- Basalt materials
"The existence of mostly pure water ice could mean future human explorers won't have to retrieve the water out of the soil in order to use it for valuable life support resources" (Source: LCROSS, NASA)
Mining Lunar ice will not be as easy as we could imagine. Ice on the moon hardness on the Mohs scale range between 6 and 7, comparable to iron pyrite. This is the reason why the NASA is investigating microvawe beam applications for ice exploitation purposes.
For a more comprehensive list of metals and minerals resources available on the moon, see the amazing outputs coming from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3)What are the applications for extracted and/or processed lunar resources?
There are multiple already known ways and means to use resources from the so-called near space.
1. How to produce oxygen on the moon?
Let's take the example of oxygen, to be used for the vital needs of human operators and for propellant production purpose. There is many ways to produce oxygen from Lunar resources. Some are more cost effective and realistic than others
Oxygen can be produced from lunar:
2. How to produce propellant on the moon?
3. How to produce construction materials on the moon?
3. How to produce refractory materials on the moon?Here is the proposed methodology to produce Refractory materials on the moon.
Information About Lunar Resources is now available to the public
Moreover, most of this very detailed information is available to the public through different reliable channels or sources. Inter alia:
- USGS Geologic Atlas of the Moon (scale 1:5,000 to 1:5,000,000)
- Google Moon
- Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3): the first mineralogical map of the lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution
- NASA’s amazing serie of educational material about moon rocks. Here is an example.
- Lunar Sourcebook: A User's Guide to the Moon edited by G. H. Heiken, D. T. Vaniman, and B. M. French, Cambridge University Press, 1991
This book is actually the reference for any scientists and it is recommended by the NASA as the basis for every studies related to moon-related research or competition.
“The book is written and edited by scientists active in every field of lunar research, all of whom are veterans of the Apollo program. The contributors are from universities, national laboratories, industry, and NASA.
Lunar Sourcebook is intended for the post-Apollo generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, and students. It has two purposes. First, it summarizes what we know about the Moon as a result of U.S. and U.S.S.R. lunar missions and the continuing analysis of lunar samples and data here on Earth. Second, it provides a convenient, accessible sourcebook for planning the future study of the Moon and the eventual use of the Moon by spacefaring humans.” (Source: Lunar and Planetary Institute)
The availability of such detailed and precise information also allows private companies to take part in future mining operations