Benefits of a Lunar Base

  • #1
I am curious to know what would be the benefits of a Lunar Base?

I know that some benefits include the harvesting and possible use of Helium 3 for nuclear fusion energy. In addition it would help further the progress for space travel that will sometime in the future lead to traveling to other planets in the future.

I know that the most abundant material is silicon, however I heard it was unsuitable for earth transportation from someone. Is this true?

What else there?
 

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  • #2
LURCH
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As far as I know, the benefits you touched on are the main ones. In all honesty, I believe the main benefit is to future space travel. The prospect of a cheap and abundant fuel is mostly a sidebar, thrown in to gain the support of commercial backing.
 
  • #3
D H
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An observatory on the far side of the moon could be incredibly beneficial to astronomy. The moon essentially has no atmosphere, it provides stable base upon which a suite of telescopes could be built, and those two week long lunar nights would have an incredibly dark sty.
 
  • #4
phinds
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An observatory on the far side of the moon could be incredibly beneficial to astronomy. The moon essentially has no atmosphere, it provides stable base upon which a suite of telescopes could be built, and those two week long lunar nights would have an incredibly dark sty.

That's certainly an excellent point, but I wonder if any studies have been done regarding a cost tradeoff of building a good-sized moon-based telescope vs a bigger and better Hubble Space Telescope with multiple spectrum capabilities. Just off the cuff, I would think the satellite telescope would be more cost effective for equivalent capabilities.

The moon based one would need to include a series of signal repeaters (not all that expensive) to get commands around to the dark side and to get the data back (this is assuming it's not a manned base which would be WAY more expensive) and it would suffer slightly from the several second round trip lag in command/feedback signal. It would also suffer from the vastly increased cost of repair/refurbishment.

Anyway, an interesting thought.
 
  • #5
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Easier space travel I can understand...

But why would you EVER want to mine the moon for resources????? Why would you want to mess with the mass of the moon?

Isn't it sort of... Oh I don't know... Essential to how we live here on Earth?
 
  • #6
phinds
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Easier space travel I can understand...

But why would you EVER want to mine the moon for resources????? Why would you want to mess with the mass of the moon?

Isn't it sort of... Oh I don't know... Essential to how we live here on Earth?

I don't think it's conceivable that we could remove enough of the moon's mass to make a difference. If we remove one part in a million, that would be approximately 100,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. Kind of hard to see how we could remove that much. Besides, where would we put it :smile:
 
  • #7
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I don't think it's conceivable that we could remove enough of the moon's mass to make a difference. If we remove one part in a million, that would be approximately 100,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. Kind of hard to see how we could remove that much. Besides, where would we put it :smile:

Just trying to take into consideration that humans do have a tendency to overdo things over time.

I'm sure we could find a way to use it.

EDIT: Didn't we think the same thing about oil?
 
  • #8
D H
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But why would you EVER want to mine the moon for resources?????
Because they're useful. Better put, they have the potential to be useful (and we won't mine those resources unless they are useful).

Why would you want to mess with the mass of the moon?
The cited resource was Helium 3. Even if we could take all of the Helium 3 on the surface of the Moon, we wouldn't "mess with the mass of the moon" by one iota.

Suppose we found the moon has a goodly amount of resources that hard to come by on the Earth and are also more massive than helium 3. We still wouldn't be "messing with the mass of the moon." (And besides, ripping an M-type asteroid to shreds would probably be a better of those resources.)

Isn't it sort of... Oh I don't know... Essential to how we live here on Earth?
You are leaping to unfounded conclusions here. Jumping from mining Helium 3 to destroying life on the Earth is a bit of a leap.


Just trying to take into consideration that humans do have a tendency to overdo things over time.

I'm sure we could find a way to use it.
Do the math. I don't think we could.

EDIT: Didn't we think the same thing about oil?
Non sequitur.
 
  • #9
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But why would you EVER want to mine the moon for resources?????

Because it is much easier to lift material from Moon into space than from Earth. Furthermore the Moon has ore deposits that we only can dream of on Earth (e.g. for titanium). Everybody who wants to build a lot of big space ships and stations should think about mining the moon. But this requires a sufficient degree of automation or telerobotics because due to the deficiency of hydrogen Moon is not very suitable for manned infrastructure.
 
  • #10
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I believe a recent probe also found indications of water well below the surface. There was also some recent thoughts about the great usefulness of lunar caves for bases. Tangential I guess.
 
  • #11
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Practice for building bases elsewhere, like Mars - I'm guessing there was in fact some sort of life there, maybe there still is underground somewhere, but we probably won't be able to find irrefutable evidence of it unless we have boots on the ground. Whether or not this endeavor is worth the cost is debatable, but certainly finding life somewhere other than on Earth would transform our entire view of ourselves and the universe around us.

Mining the moon for materials seems outrageously expensive unless it's to build spacecraft or gather spacecraft fuel and launch from the moon. Going to the moon, mining (say) titanium, and then bringing it back to Earth will probably never come within orders of magnitude of making economic sense, vs. just mining it on Earth or just not using titanium and using something else instead.
 
  • #12
DaveC426913
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But why would you EVER want to mine the moon for resources????? Why would you want to mess with the mass of the moon?

Isn't it sort of... Oh I don't know... Essential to how we live here on Earth?

Earth is essential to how we live here on Earth.


All other things being equal, which would you rather mine?
 
  • #13
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Earth is essential to how we live here on Earth.


All other things being equal, which would you rather mine?

So the gravity of the moon effecting Earth doesn't affect on life on Earth?

I think I was looking on a longer timescale though, and assuming that we found a great general use for Helium 3 where we would have consistent mining of it (hence the oil reference aforementioned), while also mining the water below the surface of the moon. But I dunno the timescale that would be needed to make any sort of difference in the mass of the moon and how much of an effect that would have on Earth's life.

But this is kinda moot by this point. I can understand D_H's point.
 
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  • #14
DaveC426913
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So the gravity of the moon effecting Earth doesn't affect on life on Earth?
Uh. If you're thinking in terms of removing enough mass from the Moon somewhere else on a scale large enough to affect the Earth, you take optimism to a whole new level.
 
  • #15
Chronos
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A robotic base might make sense, a manned base would be illogical. It's just too damned expensive to rocket a biosphere to the moon, much less other planets. It's not about what is possible, it's about what is economically justifiable. Someday we may be able to send out colonies, but, today is not that day.
 
  • #16
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A robotic base might make sense, a manned base would be illogical. It's just too damned expensive to rocket a biosphere to the moon, much less other planets. It's not about what is possible, it's about what is economically justifiable. Someday we may be able to send out colonies, but, today is not that day.

I agree. Though from what I've read, there would be enough material on the moon for a robotic base to eventually create a manned space without transporting any biosphere there. But man being man and needing to see a Neil Armstrong in the mix, I'm guessing that if we go, then a manned base would arrive sooner than later.
 
  • #17
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This is probably the most obvious thing to say, but I'll mention it anyway.

Alot of fule is lost when space craft try to leave the atmosphere and break away from gravity. Building a space base on the moon would reduce this and it could serve as a gateway to the rest of the solar system.
 
  • #18
phinds
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Uh. If you're thinking in terms of removing enough mass from the Moon somewhere else on a scale large enough to affect the Earth, you take optimism to a whole new level.

Just what I said in post #6
 
  • #20
phinds
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ummm... in space :biggrin:

Not fair. It's ALREADY in space (as far as we are concerned). I think we need to check out some of those reality TV stars ... "something housewives" and see have they got some extra room in their shoe closets.
 
  • #21
DaveC426913
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This is probably the most obvious thing to say, but I'll mention it anyway.

Alot of fule is lost when space craft try to leave the atmosphere and break away from gravity. Building a space base on the moon would reduce this and it could serve as a gateway to the rest of the solar system.

Yes, but building a moon base that would serve as a space station - including transporting all the technology, machinery, fuel, materials, people and long-term living infrastructure - would be by far the most ambitious project in terms of time, resources and cost ever undertaken by the human race. We;d have to do all that just to build the base so it could manufacture its own supplies via mining the Moon's resources.

And what would it get us? We can currently do much of our research with unmanned probes at a tiny fraction of that cost.

And yes, while it would be way cool to send humans out in to the solar system, we do not yet have the technology to do so - Moon base or no. We're still working out the kinks in just keeping people alive in the hard radiation of space for that duration.

In short, we are not at a place yet where we could even make use of that moon base at all, let alone justifying the fabulous expense of it.
 
  • #22
phinds
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Yes, but building a moon base that would serve as a space station - including transporting all the technology, machinery, fuel, materials, people and long-term living infrastructure - would be by far the most ambitious project in terms of time, resources and cost ever undertaken by the human race. We;d have to do all that just to build the base so it could manufacture its own supplies via mining the Moon's resources.

And what would it get us? We can currently do much of our research with unmanned probes at a tiny fraction of that cost.

And yes, while it would be way cool to send humans out in to the solar system, we do not yet have the technology to do so - Moon base or no. We're still working out the kinks in just keeping people alive in the hard radiation of space for that duration.

In short, we are not at a place yet where we could even make use of that moon base at all, let alone justifying the fabulous expense of it.

Nicely put Dave. I'm an ex- (but moderately long-time) NASA employee and I love space stuff, but I totally agree w/ what you have said.
 
  • #23
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Not fair. It's ALREADY in space (as far as we are concerned). I think we need to check out some of those reality TV stars ... "something housewives" and see have they got some extra room in their shoe closets.
> extra room for shoes
> housewives
haha... good one

Yes, but building a moon base that would serve as a space station - including transporting all the technology, machinery, fuel, materials, people and long-term living infrastructure - would be by far the most ambitious project in terms of time, resources and cost ever undertaken by the human race. We;d have to do all that just to build the base so it could manufacture its own supplies via mining the Moon's resources.

And what would it get us? We can currently do much of our research with unmanned probes at a tiny fraction of that cost.

And yes, while it would be way cool to send humans out in to the solar system, we do not yet have the technology to do so - Moon base or no. We're still working out the kinks in just keeping people alive in the hard radiation of space for that duration.

In short, we are not at a place yet where we could even make use of that moon base at all, let alone justifying the fabulous expense of it.
Thats true... but the thread just asks, what would be one of the benefits of a Lunar Base. I think that the biggest benefit would be that fact that the moon has less force holding something down (plus, less of an atmosphere ofcourse).

I mean, I'm not saying that this will happen tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, or the next day... Its still far away from our grasp, but when we do grasp it, imagine that leap in technology human kind would have.

I don't see why people would waste time mining the moon, its like selling a car for gas money :tongue:
 
  • #24
Ryan_m_b
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I've kept out of this thread because often rational discussions about manned space presence collapse into cultural ideologies that rival religious beliefs. However I have a few points I'd like to bring up; the one advantage that springs to my mind is that by having a permanent presence on the Moon (robotic or manned though the former has far more advantages) we could get quite a lot of decent science done e.g solar system formation, Earth/Moon formation, etc.

However there are many things that are often touted as benefits for a Moon base that I think are flawed. He-3 mining is a big flaw in my opinion, firstly we are still decades away (optimistically: only if all goes to plan) from building a first generation nuclear fusion reactor running a D-T cycle and who knows how long until we actually see wide spread deployment and construction of infrastructure for fusion power. Secondly even if we did then go on to develop a next generation fusion reactor what would be more expensive; establishing industrial bases on the Moon to mine the vanishingly thin amounts of He3 in the regolith or setting up a series of He3 neutron bombardment breeders on Earth? That's not to mention other problems such as convincing the public and competing with generation IV nuclear reactors.

Lastly there are arguments for a Moon base that centre around the development of in-situ resource utilisation to build more Moon bases or space vehicles. Something along the lines of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_machine#Advanced_Automation_for_Space_Missions" proposal. Whilst this is a brilliant proposal the technology is not there and if it was then you change everything here on Earth. Such levels of automation would radically change industry and economics in unprecedented ways. And once you do have it why go to the Moon? Why not save a hell of a lot of money and create desert bases in the Gobi, Sahara and Atacama from a small factory seed? You could do far more good with that technology on Earth than trying to propel it on top of an expensive fire work all the way to the Moon.
 
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  • #25
DaveC426913
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Thats true... but the thread just asks, what would be one of the benefits of a Lunar Base.
It is meaningless to talk about the benefits of something without talking about the costs associated.

It would be very quick for beach lovers to get a tan if they could set up their beach towels on Mercury. That's a benefit. Do you think maybe we should discuss the benefit versus the cost?

imagine that leap in technology human kind would have.
What leap in technology? The moon base must come after space travel has been commoditized.

I don't see why people would waste time mining the moon, its like selling a car for gas money :tongue:

So you propose we ship all our fuel and materials up from Earth then... Kind of defeats the purpose of having a moon base.

The whole point of a Moon base is that it is self-sufficient enough to mine the Moon for resources.
 
  • #26
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It is meaningless to talk about the benefits of something without talking about the costs associated.

It would be very quick for beach lovers to get a tan if they could set up their beach towels on Mercury. That's a benefit. Do you think maybe we should discuss the benefit versus the cost?
Ok, I had no idea that we were playing it Sim City style :smile:


What leap in technology? The moon base must come after space travel has been commoditized.
Hmmm... I don't see why exactly :wink:
If space travel has been commoditized, why waste time on Earths more


So you propose we ship all our fuel and materials up from Earth then... Kind of defeats the purpose of having a moon base.

The whole point of a Moon base is that it is self-sufficient enough to mine the Moon for resources.
Well, I don't think its the WHOLE point, what resources are you guys talking about. A few heavy metals here and there? (hehe... heavy metal) There wouldn't be much there in the first place (unless we're talking about one of Saturn's moons Titan :biggrin:) But personally, I reckon that mining the moon would be a wasted opportunity...why? because there is a whole solar system out there ready to be explored and exploited. Why not go the extra mile for more.
 
  • #27
DaveC426913
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Well, I don't think its the WHOLE point, what resources are you guys talking about. A few heavy metals here and there? (hehe... heavy metal) There wouldn't be much there in the first place (unless we're talking about one of Saturn's moons Titan :biggrin:) But personally, I reckon that mining the moon would be a wasted opportunity...why? because there is a whole solar system out there ready to be explored and exploited. Why not go the extra mile for more.

What do you think they will use to build with, to breathe, to eat, to drink, to burn? Just to operate, the Moon base needs consumables. We're talking thousands of people here. It has to be large enough to be self-sufficient. The nearest grocery store or lumber yard is 225,000 miles away.

And that's before it even starts producing anything useful, such as exports or spaceships.


Are you beginning to see why it is such an audaciously huge project? It must pick itself up by its own bootstraps. It must be virtually a whole world in miniature.
 
  • #28
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It is meaningless to talk about the benefits of something without talking about the costs associated.

It's also meaningless to talk about the cost/benefits of doing something without talking about the cost/benefits of doing alternatives. For example, suppose technology improves to the point where we can run an automated mine on the moon. Great!!!! Except that this same technology would let us run automated mines in the deep sea or in Antarctica.

Also, maybe focusing on the immediate economics is a bad idea. Personally, I think that the way you can justify a moon base is through national pride. What good is a moon base? Don't know, but if China has one, then it's bad if the US doesn't (and vice versa). I think it's only through a friendly (and expensive) competition of "plant the flag" that we are going to get ourselves off the planet.

The space race was one of the good things that came out of the Cold War and it's not a coincidence that people lost interest in space once the Cold War ended. The challenge I think is to create a "new space race" but without the threat of total nuclear annihilation.

What leap in technology? The moon base must come after space travel has been commoditized.

There is a chicken and egg issue here.
 
  • #29
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But personally, I reckon that mining the moon would be a wasted opportunity...why? because there is a whole solar system out there ready to be explored and exploited. Why not go the extra mile for more.

Because you have to convince a legislature to spend several trillion dollars on the effort. This *can* be done, but it gets you into the messy world of politics and if you talk about mining cost/benefit it doesn't work.

If you talk about national pride and competition then it *might* work. You go to China, and then convince the government there to spend money on a space program, as a matter of national pride that they can beat the Americans. Once you've convinced China to do that, you go to the United States and point out that the Chinese are going to the moon, and that as a matter of national pride, the US must follow. Once you've done that, you go back to China and point out that since the Americans are going to the Moon then maybe China should aim for Mars. Then you go back......

Pretty soon you've got national governments spending trillions on space, and unlike spending that money on bombs and tanks, no one is going to end up getting killed.

Keynes once said that to get a country out of a depression, you can pay half of the people to bury money so that the other half can dig it up, and I think we should do this, only do it on Mars.
 
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  • #30
DaveC426913
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The space race was one of the good things that came out of the Cold War and it's not a coincidence that people lost interest in space once the Cold War ended.
I am not convinced the people did lose interest. I think the politicians stopped seeing the advantage in it.
 
  • #32
Ryan_m_b
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No you didn't. Your post;
Because it is much easier to lift material from Moon into space than from Earth. Furthermore the Moon has ore deposits that we only can dream of on Earth (e.g. for titanium). Everybody who wants to build a lot of big space ships and stations should think about mining the moon. But this requires a sufficient degree of automation or telerobotics because due to the deficiency of hydrogen Moon is not very suitable for manned infrastructure.
Only applies if what we are talking about is building space stations and vehicles capable of travelling beyond the Earth-Moon system. Within that stipulation it also only applies if the building materials can be found on the Moon and if they can be found and mined for a cheaper cost than finding and mining them on Earth before putting them in orbit. Considering that large scale mining and manufacturing is going to require some highly sophisticated and versatile factories I doubt Moon rather than the products of said factory to orbit?
 
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  • #33
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A few heavy metals here and there?

http://www.geo.utep.edu/pub/olgin/Planetary/Pommerol_etal-Detectability_subsurfacesMaria_LRS_SELENE.pdf" [Broken] is much more than "a few heavy metals here and there". There is nothing like that on Earth.

But personally, I reckon that mining the moon would be a wasted opportunity...why? because there is a whole solar system out there ready to be explored and exploited. Why not go the extra mile for more.

I do not see, why we can not have both at once.
 
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  • #34
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No you didn't. Your post;

Only applies if what we are talking about is building space stations and vehicles capable of travelling beyond the Earth-Moon system.

Compared to the construction costs the extra costs for traveling beyond the Earth-Moon system is almost negligible.

Within that stipulation it also only applies if the building materials can be found on the Moon

You do not need to find all required materials on the Moon. It would be sufficient to find the material for the heavy parts of ships and stations such as for the support structure. Everything else - including high tech components that might be to tricky to build on the Moon - should better be build on Earth.

and if they can be found and mined for a cheaper cost than finding and mining them on Earth before putting them in orbit.

That's a question of technology. I already mentioned that it requires "a sufficient degree of automation or telerobotics" but "everybody who wants to build a lot of big space ships and stations" should have such technology when he means business.

Considering that large scale mining

In consideration of the deposits (very high content in the upper layer) harvesting would be the better word.

and manufacturing is going to require some highly sophisticated and versatile factories

Most of them would be primitive and stationary heavy industry. Only a few components must be highly sophisticated and mobile.
 
  • #35
Ryan_m_b
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Compared to the construction costs the extra costs for traveling beyond the Earth-Moon system is almost negligible.

You do not need to find all required materials on the Moon. It would be sufficient to find the material for the heavy parts of ships and stations such as for the support structure. Everything else - including high tech components that might be to tricky to build on the Moon - should better be build on Earth.

That's a question of technology. I already mentioned that it requires "a sufficient degree of automation or telerobotics" but "everybody who wants to build a lot of big space ships and stations" should have such technology when he means business.

In consideration of the deposits (very high content in the upper layer) harvesting would be the better word.

Most of them would be primitive and stationary heavy industry. Only a few components must be highly sophisticated and mobile.

No offence but all of this to me boils down to "if we had the technology to do X, we could do X" before handwaving away the technological hurdles. It's almost as if you are defining the benefit into existence rather than saying "if we specifically do option A there will be X measurable benefit, Y measurable cost which compared to the benefit and cost of alternative B...".

Yes I agree with you, if we could cheaply send automated/remote operated probes to the Moon capable of mining, refining and manufacturing local materials for a cheaper cost than on Earth then that is a benefit compared to shipping up all those pieces bit by bit. But that's fairly obvious and unless there are any specific peer-reviewed scientific and engineering articles that you could present it's essentially a worthless (or at best science fiction) discussion.
 

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