Benefits of a Lunar Base

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

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?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #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
 
  • #19
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Besides, where would we put it :smile:
ummm... in space :biggrin:
 
  • #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.
 

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