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How the Moon Could Quickly Become a Boomtown

May 16, 2012, 1:30 PM

What's the Latest Development?

When it comes to mining the moon for precious resources, the question is "when", not "if", says Dr. Leonhard Bernold, an engineering professor at the University of New South Wales. We know the lunar surface contains abundant amounts of so-called rare Earth metals like Yttrium, Lanthanum and Samarium, which are essential to building high-tech products of both civilian and military application. The Moon also contains stores of Helium-3, a non-radioactive nuclear fusion fuel that some believe is the way to meet terrestrial demand for clean energy in the future.

 What's the Big Idea?

Bernold reminds all the futurists out there that significant technical obstacles remain because mining on Earth is completely different from mining on the Moon. Because there is less lunar gravity, machines would require six-times their Earth mass to gain traction in the lunar soil or keep from toppling over. That means vastly more expensive launches. Lunar dust, which could jam machine gears and clog vents, also proses major problems. Bernold is working on a solution he calls "suction extraction with pneumatic transportation." The technique is especially attractive because it relies heavily on resources, such as solar energy, already on the moon. 

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


How the Moon Could Quickly ...

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