Trump administration drafting ‘Artemis Accords’ pact for moon mining

From Reuters

Exclusive: Trump administration drafting ‘Artemis Accords’ pact for moon mining – sources

Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON(Reuters) – The Trump administration is drafting a legal blueprint for mining on the moon under a new U.S.-sponsored international agreement called the Artemis Accords, people familiar with the proposed pact told Reuters.

The agreement would be the latest effort to cultivate allies around NASA’s plan to put humans and space stations on the moon within the next decade, and comes as the civilian space agency plays a growing role in implementing American foreign policy. The draft pact has not been formally shared with U.S. allies yet.

The Trump administration and other spacefaring countries see the moon as a key strategic asset in outer space. The moon also has value for long-term scientific research that could enable future missions to Mars – activities that fall under a regime of international space law widely viewed as outdated.

The Artemis Accords, named after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s new Artemis moon program, propose “safety zones” that would surround future moon bases to prevent damage or interference from rival countries or companies operating in close proximity.

The pact also aims to provide a framework under international law for companies to own the resources they mine, the sources said.

In the coming weeks, U.S. officials plan to formally negotiate the accords with space partners such as Canada, Japan, and European countries, as well as the United Arab Emirates, opening talks with countries the Trump administration sees as having “like-minded” interests in lunar mining.

Russia, a major partner with NASA on the International Space Station, won’t be an early partner in these accords, the sources said, as the Pentagon increasingly views Moscow as hostile for making “threatening” satellite maneuvers toward U.S. spy satellites in Earth orbit. 

The United States is a member of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty and sees the “safety zones” as an implementation of one of its highly debated articles. It states that celestial bodies and the moon are “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

“This isn’t some territorial claim,” said one source, who requested anonymity to discuss the agreement. The safety zones – whose size would vary depending on the operation – would allow for coordination between space actors without technically claiming territory as sovereign, he said.

“The idea is if you are going to be coming near someone’s operations, and they’ve declared safety zones around it, then you need to reach out to them in advance, consult and figure out how you can do that safely for everyone.”

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May 6, 2020 6:24 am

It must be called Moon Base Alpha.

John Endicott
Reply to  ggm
May 7, 2020 8:05 am

about 21 years too late! Of course, considering what happened to it in Space 1999, do you really think it’s a good idea to call it Moon Base Alpha?

Ron Long
May 6, 2020 6:56 am

Safety zones around lunar developments/station, yes. Mining on the moon, no way (even Musk is not that crazy!). Hidden in the report is the comment about Russians making risky approaches toward US military (ie, spy) satellites in space. Watch out for further advances, because remember “hold the high-ground” is one of the truest military axioms known, and there is no higher “ground” than space. Space Force? anyone? Stay sane and safe (day 49 of modified quarantine and dreaming of golf course opening).

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Ron Long
May 6, 2020 7:32 am

Golf courses are open here – time to pick up some D3!

May 6, 2020 6:57 am

I didn’t know basalt was so valuable.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 6, 2020 7:46 am

The socialmarxists think the moon will yield valuable fairy dust. Maybe even unicorn farts…..

Bryan A
Reply to  beng135
May 6, 2020 10:14 am

Could be a boon to ultra expensive Solar Panels if they found a source of really pure quartz

Right-Handed Shark
Reply to  beng135
May 6, 2020 12:12 pm

No, it’s Helium3, and the nazi’s have been there since 1945!

Bryan A
Reply to  Right-Handed Shark
May 6, 2020 9:55 pm

Better than it’s sequel
Iron Sky The Coming Race

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 6, 2020 7:58 am

The most valuable Lunar resource has already been located. It is concentrated in the permanently shadowed parts of craters at the Moon’s north and south poles. It is called water ice.

I think that I should get a property lawyer to immediately form a private corporation, with me as CEO, and file for resource mining rights on these resources. 😉

Ron Long
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 10:53 am

Gordon, you don’t need a lawyer to buy the water rights, I’ll sell them to you (relatively) cheaply.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Ron Long
May 6, 2020 12:27 pm

And will that come with clear title documentation?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 3:15 pm

Just like the Mars real estate for sale here:

John Endicott
Reply to  Ron Long
May 7, 2020 8:18 am

Forget buying water rights when you can buy bridges. There’s one in Brooklyn that’s quite the seller, or so I hear. 😉

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 11:44 am

The water is indeed the most valuable resource known to exist on the Moon — which is why any Moon colony in the foreseeable future will not be worth building. The economics of colonizing the Moon are the economics of colonizing Antarctica: either could be done, but unless somebody finds a mother lode of uranium there, there’s no good reason to do it.

John Endicott
Reply to  jdgalt
May 7, 2020 8:22 am

Depends on what your colony would be there for. If it’s for material gain (mining “gold”, “uranium” or other valuable resource) then indeed there’s little in the way of good reasons to do it. If it’s for scientific research, well that right there is a reason to do it (and indeed we do it already in Antarctica, so why not the moon?). Or if we do it as a staging ground for space exploration, that too would be a reason to do it.

Michael Keal
Reply to  John Endicott
May 8, 2020 3:29 pm

Also if you dangle a large rock towards the Earth from a conducting cable anchored on the Moon I think you might be able to generate free electricity which could be used to power a lift to the gravitationally neutral point between Earth and the Moon so people staying in the Moon hotel could easily travel to the Moonport space station where they could pick up their transport back to Earth.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
May 11, 2020 4:37 am

Michael you actually bring up another point for having a moon colony – Tourism. Granted it would be a extremely wealthy person’s holiday destination (at least to start with). May even been a prime destination for the 1%ers who wish to get away from future pandemics (assuming extensive pre-boarding health screenings for all travelers becomes a thing). The moon: the ultimate self-isolation getaway destination – at least until the pandemic spreads to the moon colony!

Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 6, 2020 9:19 am

Anything on the moon is valuable because it costs so much to get the same thing up from the Earth.
Aluminum is cheap here on earth, however it costs 10’s of thousands of dollars per pound to get that aluminum to the moon.

As Good Richard said, “A penny saved is a penny earned”.
Making that pound of aluminum on the moon, saves those 10’s of thousands of dollars.

Bryan A
Reply to  MarkW
May 6, 2020 10:18 am

except that making that aluminum on the moon requires the import of Fossil Fuels for the manufacturing process. Probably not much chance for locally sourced Coal or Oil though the Sun does shine for 347 hours a day

Reply to  Bryan A
May 6, 2020 11:35 am

Which begs the question, what air is available for fossil fuel combustion on the moon?..None of course

That means everything will have to be electric.

Whoa, looks like all of those bazillions of green jobs will be on the moon!

Reply to  Klem
May 6, 2020 4:32 pm

“Which begs the question, what air is available for fossil fuel combustion on the moon?..None of course”
well air is mostly useless, it’s the oxygen which is used the combustion of fuel.
There is no shortage of Oxygen on the Moon, but there is not “free” oxygen, if there was not oxygen available in Earth’s air, vehicles would to carry oxygen to burn the fuel and weight of the oxygen is something like 3-4 times the weight of fuel. Or carrying all the oxidizer would reduce the efficiency of vehicles. With moon you could have fuel cell using hydrogen or methane {no coal or crude oil on Moon} and O2. And such fuel cell makes electric power which power it. Or if wrongly assume, methane is a fossil fuel {it not, there vast amounts of methane in our solar system- or it’s not created by life processes]
then you have “fossil fuel” powering vehicles. Though one could batteries or just have electrical power which directly power vehicle {similar to how subways are powered- “third rail” or use electrified power cable above vehicles {which they connect to}.
But thing you do on Moon {if you there at all} is you make rocket fuel- rocket fuel being, liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen or methane.
So probably use that form of chemical energy, to power vehicles using a fuel cell- which is basically a type of battery.

Reply to  Bryan A
May 6, 2020 12:42 pm

Solar furnaces. Though having to go through a 14 day on, 14 day off cycle will take some special engineering.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  MarkW
May 7, 2020 9:02 am

No, we’ll be sure to either:
(a) put the solar furnaces, as well as the solar cell electricity generation farms, on a big railway system so that they become sun-synchronous mobile on the Moon’s surface, or
(b) transport a LOT a Tesla storage batteries—along the lines of the Tesla Powerpack installation at Hornsdale, South Australia—so that excess PV power generated and stored over 14 days of sunlight can be used over 14 days of lunar darkness.

Just in case it is needed, /sarc is now off.

Reply to  Bryan A
May 6, 2020 3:40 pm

Aluminium smelting needs lots of energy, but not necessarily from fossil fuels. Nuclear energy would do the job.

Bryan A
Reply to  krm
May 6, 2020 10:05 pm

But Steel and Crystalline Silicon for Solar Panels both require Coal for manufacturing

Gary Pearse
Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 6, 2020 9:27 am

Res.guy: The so-called greenstone belts (basalts a main constituent) of the Precambrian supply much of the world’s base metals, precious metals and rare metals. Volcanic ‘exhalatives’ contain the largests ore bodies of massive sulphides containing copper, zinc, and accessory metals. Ni-copper, chromium PGM – (platimum grp) magmatic cumulates in mafic/ultramafic rocks (basaltic composition).

Ni-iron meteorites with platinum group metals impacting the early moon would be preserved from erosion, and subduction which gobbles up this stuff is absent on the moon. Exploration for such resources would be simple satellite “aero” mag, EM, Gravity and radiometric mapping. Whoooeee, what a wonderful job.

Paul of Alexandria
Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 7, 2020 3:14 pm

1) He3, and not just for fusion reactors. There are other uses for it.
2) What is most of the moon made of: hint, they still slam into it occasionally. Some of those asteroids will be “golden nuggets” with lots of rare earths and heavy metals.
3) if you want to mine the asteroids, the best place to fabricate your spaceships will be in orbit around the Moon using Lunar materials.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
May 8, 2020 7:08 am

Its not all basalt.
There is a lot of titanium, oxygen, and numerous other minerals. So far its been very little water, but if found in economical quantities it will be sought after. Its a pretty rare commodity in our solar system. and extremely valuable. It is rocket fuel.

The issue with mining is that lack of gravity is not your friend.

May 6, 2020 7:41 am

Great timing. We don’t have anything more urgent to do.

Reply to  Curious George
May 6, 2020 9:21 am

Of what use do you believe the lawyers that are working on this would be in regards to finding a cure for Covid19?

John Endicott
Reply to  Curious George
May 7, 2020 8:27 am

Actually, George, I’d much rather see the paper pushing beaurocrats working on this than “something more urgent”. At least with this they’re not messing with peoples lives and livelyhoods.

May 6, 2020 7:52 am

Nobody knows what’s up there (or if they do they’re not saying).

Reply to  pochas94
May 6, 2020 9:22 am

We may not know precisely where all of it is, why do you believe we don’t know what is up there.
We know that the moon is made out of pretty much the same kind of stuff as the Earth is. More of the lighter elements, fewer of the heavier elements.

John Doran
Reply to  pochas94
May 7, 2020 1:01 am

Genius journalist Jim Marrs, RIP, claims that moon rocks are a billion years older than Earth & that the moondust they sit in is a billion years older than the rocks. He notes that they are reflective of radiation, thus forming a great skin for a spacecraft. & much more. Book: Our Occulted History Do The Global Elite Conceal Ancient Aliens? Well referenced & indexed, from NASA scientists to ancient Sumerian clay tablets. A fascinating read. His Alien Agenda is also a great read.

Another fascinating book is Robert Zubrin’s The Case For Mars. Zubrin is a PhD nuclear engineer.

Trump’s USA proposing agreements? A belly laugh, surely.

John Endicott
Reply to  pochas94
May 7, 2020 8:29 am

Sure we do, we’ve known for centuries: green cheese (need a really add /sarc? considering how literal some are, I’m guessing yes).

Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 7:53 am

“The fundamental treaty is the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, or simply the “Outer Space Treaty.” It was ratified [by the US as party to the UN] in 1967, largely based on a set of legal principles the general assembly accepted in 1962.”
. . . “The treaty has several major points to it. Some of the principal ones are:
Space is free for all nations to explore, and sovereign claims cannot be made. Space activities must be for the benefit of all nations and humans. (So, nobody owns the moon.) . . .”

The United Nations General Assembly created an ad hoc Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOUS) that established five sets of guiding principles, among which the most relevant to this discussion is:
“The ‘Benefits Declaration’ (1996) says that space exploration shall be carried out for the benefit of all states.”

“It should be emphasized again that the U.N. treaties are nonbinding, but there is a sort of international pressure by other nations when a nation strays from the principles. There have been, however, some debates over the years about some of the major principles of space law. While the ultimate interpretation of these matters is up to lawyers, here are some of the major questions:
. . .”Mining rights. In the United States, there are two major companies hoping to perform asteroid mining in the coming years: Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources. In 2015, the United States passed the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which in a nutshell allows for U.S. citizens to exploit asteroids and other space resources, but not the land on which the resources sit. While this makes resource hunting legal for U.S. citizens, some experts have said this could violate the Outer Space Treaty.

“Boundary disputes and property rights. For the moment, the Outer Space Treaty says that space and celestial bodies cannot be claimed by other nations, but it is unclear how these provisions would apply to private companies.”

— source of the above information:

Now, just consider what the US response might be if China reaches the Moon before the US returns to it, and starts claiming mining rights by dint of having representatives of a “private (shell) company” on the Moon (i.e., asserting certain “rights” by claim of “possession”) . . . in this eventuality, you really think the US will be OK with any private company claiming possession of the Moon’s valuable resources yet-to-be-mined?

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 6:43 pm

All these Stayes’ rights and entitlements are just mafia claims writ large.

The various spacefaring nations might hammer out an agreement if they think that’s cheaper than fighting. Otherwise it’ll be decided by who has the most effective weaponry within range.

May 6, 2020 8:35 am

Nothing like paying billions for delivery of minerals worth a few hundred dollars…..


Ed H
Reply to  Jon P Peterson
May 6, 2020 9:08 am

If done by private industry, I doubt companies are going to engage in throwing money down the drain if unprofitable – as long as we can avoid government subsidies distorting the market.

That said, just as the Apollo program had huge technological benefits to the world, creating much of the basis for many modern conveniences, the further exploration and even potential commercialization of space could yield further benefits. Space is just another area like much of the corporate world where you cannot spend all your revenue on innovation, but you have to spend some to grow long term.

Reply to  Ed H
May 6, 2020 9:28 am

The claim that Apollo created new technology isn’t supported by the facts.
Everything used by the Apollo program either already existed or was already in development.
The best claim that the Apollo program can make is that some of these technologies were accelerated by a few months.

Reply to  Ed H
May 6, 2020 9:42 am

Big urban myths behind the technology of Apollo program.
Urban myth: that without Apollo, much of that space and launch vehicle, and guidance technology wouldn’t have been developed.

Most of the Apollo program was already benefiting from and using defense industry weapons systems technology and missile-related technology. Even the lead-up to Apollo, , Mercury rocketrs were Atlas ICBMs developed for the DoD and COld War.
The Gemini Program was the building of NASA expertise and experience with manned space flight, but it too, as Gemini used the same launch hardware platform as the Titan-II ICBM. The Titan -II missile specifically called the Gemini Launch Vehicle (GLV), 54 of which were installed in Missouri, Arkansas, and Arizona able to toss a 9 Megaton thermonuclear warhead deep into Russia first went operational in 1963, but the first Gemini launch was in 1964. The Martin compnay got the contract to start Titan II development in March 1960 when Eisenhower was still President, a year before JFK’s “we go to the Moon by the end of the decade” speech” on September 12, 1962.
The Apollo program lunar lander training prototypes that Armstrong (and nearly died in one) and the other lunar lander astronauts trained on, the engineering and technology came out of defense work on researching flying, hovering platforms and augmented controls systems technology to control them.

All those things NASA capitalized on for Apollo, almost all were already being done in the Cold War arms race between the US and the USSR by defense spending.
Apollo was just the civilian PR face of a massive defense spending disguised as a Race to the Moon against the Rooskies. The American public needed to remain committed to footing the tax bill with patriotic stuff like that we couldn’t let Sputnik happen again. JFK and his democrats needed a public face to pay for the huge bills for defense technology that was a cross-over from weapons and aircraft programs.

The early space suits for Mercury and Gemini were direct copies of suit technology the US Air Force sponsored for the U-2 and YF-12/SR-71 programs black programs being kept from the public.

ICBMs, nuclear weapon-tipped MIRV computerized guidance systems, and the miniaturization that.
Re-entry systems, MIRV technology. Putting up Defense comm satellites, the technology transfer was almost entirely from Defense work to NASA manned-space programs, not the other way around.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 6, 2020 10:46 am

What about Tang???

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 12:45 pm

Was already on the market.

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 6, 2020 12:52 pm

Tang branded as the drink developed for astronauts was Pure Marketing genius.

Getting NASA to advertise your powdered tangerine product to kids hungry for anything NASA and space, and parents willing to indulge them hoping it’ll encourage them to become rocket scientists.
Tang Juice as the name suggests is associated with beverage industry. It was formulated for the first time in the year 1957 by William A Mitchel, a food scientist at General Foods Corporation. Tang Juice was marketed in the year 1959 in its powdered form.”

Notice that Tang was formulated 1 year before NASA and its space flight programs were created by Eisenhower in 1958 and before the Mercury Seven astronauts became cult heroes in 1959. General Foods capitalized on this craze to the point that the myth persists to this day that Tang was developed for NASA astronauts. It was a stroke Pure genius and timing in marketing in recognizing a craze.

Sorry to burst your bubble on the NASA-developed Tang myth.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 7, 2020 9:08 am

Way more information than I needed to know for a question that was intended to be sarcastic.

But, nonetheless, thanks!

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 6, 2020 1:11 pm

I’ll even add that as great as the Hubble telescope is and has been for astronomy and its discoveries…

Basically the US Defense industry has been building and sending up Hubble size/class telescopes for 40 years for classified US 3-letter agencies.
NASA’s Hubble telescope was not a 1 time/single use design of the basic mirror and optical system and SV configuration. Way Too expensive for NASA to have done that without substantial previous engineering and development of similar designs paid for with Defense spending.

DoD of course built their own Hubbles not to look at the stars, but to look at and snap pictures of ground targets from low-orbit looking down. That required developing exactly the same technology for momentum-reaction fly wheel stabilized tracking units and computers. The same mirrors and optical configurations, and the same types of multispectral sensors to take pictures in order to analyze what types of chemicals and vapors were coming out of smoke stack plumes etc. Just like astronomers want to know what spectral lines can be seen in stars and very distant gas and plasma clouds. Same technical and engineering problems.

NASA just bought one of those Big Ass orbiting telescopes for itself, then made a few adjustments for astronomy, and then wrote software for pointing and tracking at the stars instead of the Earth. Sadly NASA got one with a bum mirror in the deal because they tried to cut cost corners on testing before launch.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 7, 2020 2:59 am

IIRC, the mirror was short-sighted so exactly right for looking at earth.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
May 7, 2020 9:29 am

The initial mirror system out-of-focus problem following launch of Hubble was NOT due to an incorrect optical path length, but rather due to uncorrectable spherical aberration of the telescope’s primary mirror.

The telescope has actuators on its secondary mirror that can be used to obtain sharp focus if the the primary and secondary mirrors are correctly figured. “Engineers spent days moving Hubble’s secondary mirror ever so slightly, taking picture after picture and analyzing the results. To their dismay, Hubble simply could not achieve a crisp focus.” ( )

Thus, Hubble’s initial mirror problem was in no way associated with a telescope designed solely to imagine Earth’s surface from LEO.

Reply to  Jon P Peterson
May 6, 2020 9:26 am

Nobody is proposing sending those materials back to earth. They will be used to build moon colonies and ships and probes which will be used between the earth and the moon as well as deeper into space.

Mining these materials on the moon rather than sending from the earth will save trillions.

Reply to  Jon P Peterson
May 6, 2020 9:36 am

The current cost of materials on the Moon is hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a kilo. So for anything more than a ‘salute-the-flag’ mission like Apollo you can save a lot of money by mining materials there.

Fuel is probably the big one, if you can extract lunar ice and turn it into hydrogen and oxygen for rockets.

May 6, 2020 8:52 am

Obviously those drafting these proposals didn’t watch Brad Pitt in Ad Astra. A pretty bad movie plot wise if you ask me (too much movie logic” stuff that would never happen but director needs you to accept it to make the plot work), but there were lunar mineral claims everywhere and fights over them in the plot.

May 6, 2020 9:03 am

Heinlein smiles.

May 6, 2020 9:55 am

What does/doesn’t make sense. I can’t think of any “unobtanium” valuable enough to mine on the moon and ship back to earth. Lunar mining for “valuable resources” is a pipe dream.

What would make sense is ISRU (In Situ Resource Utilization). I.e. have the colony utilize local resources, and minimize the amount of supplies constantly being shipped up to the moon. E.g. rather than constantly shipping oxygen and water to supply the moonbase, ship solar panels (libs go happy) or a nuclear power plant (libs go nuts) to the base and use ice in the southern polar craters for water and water-electrolosys for hydrogen and oxygen. Use water plus human-expelled CO2 plus LED grow-lamps to grow veggies/etc locally, rather than shipping up by rocket. Bonus… the plants take in CO2 and spew out oxygen… the ultimate win-win.

Space stations/satellites orbiting around the moon have their own problems. Because the earth is so much larger+heavier than the moon, an orbit too far away from the moon gets constantly deformed by the combination of earth and solar gravity, and eventually the satellite gets kicked out of lunar orbit. Howsabout a low orbit hugging the moon you ask? What could go wrong? Answer… plenty.

See The moon is gravitationally “lumpy”. The lava that welled up in lunar “seas” (“mare”) after meteorite impacts is denser than the surrounding lunar crust. The resulting mass concentrations (“masscons”) deform the moon’s gravitational field. Low-orbinting satellites have their orbits deformed to increasingly eccentric ellipsess around the the moon’s core. Eventually, the low point of the ellipse hits the lunar surface; and goodbye satellite. Theoretical calculations indicate that there are 4 long-term stable orbital slots where masscon effects balance out each other and satellites don’t need to be constantly making orbital course corrections. They’re at 27, 50, 76, and 86 degrees inclination to the lunar equator. Expect these slots to eventually get crowded with satellites from various countries.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
May 6, 2020 12:30 pm

“Expect these slots to eventually get crowded with satellites from various countries.”

I regard predictions like that in the same way we now understand the worry over the “the Great Horse Manure Crisis” of London and NY City in the 1890’s, and how and why it didn’t happen.

“This problem came to a head when in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted… “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
– Yogi Berra.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
May 6, 2020 12:50 pm

Put the moon orbiting satellite in a polar orbit perpendicular to a line between the center of the Earth and the center of the Moon. Then set the orbit to precess at a 28 day/cycle rate so that it stays perpendicular to the Earth/ Moon axis all the time.

The only resource I have ever heard someone propose shipping from the Moon to the Earth is H3.
Every propose is for materials to be used locally or to be used to build space ships and stations.

Reply to  MarkW
May 7, 2020 10:06 am

H3 won’t be useful until we get fusion to work, tho H3 would certainly make it easier to achieve.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
May 6, 2020 5:38 pm

–Walter Dnes May 6, 2020 at 9:55 am
What does/doesn’t make sense. I can’t think of any “unobtanium” valuable enough to mine on the moon and ship back to earth. Lunar mining for “valuable resources” is a pipe dream.–

Any random moon rock or dirt, is worth price of gold on Earth.
And if you make the lunar regolith the price of silver, I would want to buy some.
At moment, lunar material is worth far more than price of gold on Earth.
And if mined lunar gold, you would probably keep it on the Moon.
If lunar gold was kept on the Moon, I buy some if it cheaper per troy than Earth gold.
Spot Earth gold at moment is 1,688.40 per oz, if lunar gold on the moon was $1000 per oz
I would buy it.
If they are mining moon on the Moon, I know the cost of transporting gold to Earth will lower
in the future. Say costs will 1/2 per decade, so you wanted the gold delivered to Earth in future, it’s
worth more in the future. Only problem is gold too valuable on the Moon, so maybe I could buy at
1500 per oz, but that not as good as $1000 per oz. And not currently buying Earth gold, so would only buy it if it was an attractive price.
What is more valuable than lunar gold on the Moon is lunar water on the Moon. The lunar water is much cheaper per kg, and there could be a lot water on the moon. So, would be buying lunar water by the ton, and a good/fair price is 1/2 million dollar per ton.
If anyone starts mining lunar water, it seems the most amount of water mined will be about 20,000 tons within the first 10 years. And so, 20,000 tons is worth about 5 billion dollar.
But any company which could mine and sell 20,000 tons of lunar water within 10 years, would have company worth greater than 10 billion dollar- so you probably want to buy that company stocks rather than lunar water. Or water commodity are probably going down and if company is successful, it go up like Facebook. But if buying lunar water came with a stock option, and buying water was only way to buy stocks in company {because it hasn’t gone public yet} one might buy the lunar water {which kept on Moon and sold on Moon}.
In terms of other prices, Liquid Oxygen is worth about $1000 per kg and Liquid Hydrogen worth about $4000 per kg.
And rocket fuel is 6 kg of LOX per 1 kg LH2 giving 7 kg of rocket fuel which at above prices is
$6000 + $4000 is 10,000 for 7 kg, which is $1428.57 per kg of lunar rocket fuel.
And 1 kg of rocket fuel could lift 1 kg of LOX to lunar low orbit
And at lunar orbit you cost $1000 for LOX and used $1428.57 of rocket fuel and
sell the LOX at $3000 to $4000 at Low lunar orbit. Or you use this cost of about 3500 per kg of
LOX, to be cheaper way of landing stuff on the lunar surface. Or if shipped LOX from Earth it could
cost $5000 per kg {or more}. But you will pay $6000 per kg of liquid Hydrogen shipped from Earth.
Or if shipped 6 kg of LOX from Earth: 30,000 + 6000 is 36,000 / 7 = 5128.85 per kg vs
3500 times 6 = 21000 + 6000 = 27.000 / 7 = 3857.14 per kg of rocket at low lunar orbit.

You still get surplus of oxygen, even though exporting oxygen. But Moon has a lot oxygen, so Moon will always have surplus of O2. But Moon also has large amount of Hydrogen, and you mine it with large scale mining operations, and you get surplus of H2 on Moon {and lots helium with very small amount of He3}.
I tend to think Lunar iron will eventually be most significant metal mined. And resulting in largest surplus of Oxygen.

John Endicott
Reply to  gbaikie
May 7, 2020 8:14 am

Any random moon rock or dirt, is worth price of gold on Earth….At moment, lunar material is worth far more than price of gold on Earth.

That’s because it’s extremely rare (pretty much all we currently have access to is the handful of rocks and dust we brought back). If we’re mining the stuff on the moon, suddenly it’s not so rare and it’s worth plummets to below that of Gold and Silver.

Reply to  John Endicott
May 7, 2020 10:02 am

Lunar material is useful, unique, and rare. And if there was 100 tons of lunar material on Earth it is still useful, unique and rare.
It’s not like you charging much more than the cost to get it.
The price of gold is roughly close to cost of mining it. Mining gold is expensive to do.
Bring lunar material to Earth is hard to do as finding meteorites on the ground on Earth.
But lunar material does not require much effort to find or collect on the moon and it’s roughly the same as if the Moon was littered lunar diamonds- if there is a lot of lunar diamonds on Moon
then lunar diamonds would eventually lower in price as more brought more back from the Moon, but the price of them would remain around the cost of bring them back from the Moon.
And that way it works with anything.
Of course there other aspects, like baseball cards, they cheap to make, but some are highly valued, and you have that aspect with lunar material. Or millions of tonnes of lunar material could brought back Earth, and some of it could more expensive than the price paid for it.
But generally you charging around the cost getting the lunar material to Earth- as said that the case with anything sold.
Anyways their is market in terms of 100 tons of lunar material per year- and at quantity it is still useful, unique, and rare.

Reply to  gbaikie
May 7, 2020 1:32 pm

For example, say the cheapest one buy lunar material for was $20 per gram and say this was not pristine and it could be varying density from as low as 1.5 grams to 4.5 grams per cubic cm {table salt is about 2 gram per cubic cm and water is 1 gram- and gold is 19.32 grams per cm].
And lunar material could be fine dust or solid rock.
Or it could be 2 to 6 times as expensive depending how it’s packaged. And most expensive
packaging is related the sample being in pristine condition- it’s in a lunar vacuum and other factors in which you count as pristine or roughly anything you count as scientifically valuable sample {though if you don’t take steps to maintain this condition it obviously loses it’s scientific value. So how and where it’s collected, how it packaged and transported and maintained is all part of this- such as a core sample. Experts would have various requirements- but no reason the general public could also get these things.
Also if buy a large solid rock, roughly it’s interior would be in pristine condition, and that could sold as not pristine and you could touch it and not not need as extreme measures to preserve it’s condition.
Another example of non pristine packaging could be thing like baseball card, which lunar sample less than gram and be be $20 and and you could hundreds of different kind of “baseball cards”, and it could have text and pictures and further information at some internet link, or rather paper/plastic card, it could be thumb drive or whatever.
And you have non pristine, somewhat pristine, and pristine {and as said of different “types”] but I would assume all samples indicate a location that they from on moon- and varying location could have some value assigned to them- as example Apollo 11 site which aren’t really about scientific value- more like “baseball card type value”. Of course these would probably be mostly in regions of lunar poles- which has not been explored yet. But “baseball card type demand” could make going to Apollo sites as something you do, they would be quite far from any rocket fuel, so it depend on how much it’s wanted.
Anyways non pristine could have uses, you could get famous people to sign them, or put their finger print on it. And more generally accessible, you can make jewelry from them or whatever. Pristine could have other uses related to the fact, that you can’t forge or counterfeit lunar material- could used in money and other things. So start from pristine and make it into something, that you could only make from a specific pristine lunar material- and degradation due to earth conditions can act as timer. Or a dollar bill made in some year, would have have the material and made it in that year- or you can counterfeit somewhat successfully, anything, but the harder it is, the less likely it’s done.

May 6, 2020 10:11 am

If you dress it up with union wage requirements, net carbon neutral, preschool funding, and Kennedy Center funding it might just fly….or become a competing version in Congress. It doesn’t really matter where it’s going or what it’s for, it’s the spending journey that counts.

Carl Friis-Hansen
May 6, 2020 10:20 am

China’ wants astronauts on the moon early 2020s. Filling one shuttle’s cargo bay with helium-3 could bring the equivalent energy of 1bn barrels of oil back to earth.

Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
May 6, 2020 12:51 pm

H3 only becomes valuable when fusion power is up and running.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  MarkW
May 6, 2020 1:18 pm

Agree with you MarkW.
I wonder if they know more than we do? Why is it otherwise the Chinese for years have been so obsessed with H3? I remember it was a talking point in a political assembly in Copenhagen, during a meeting I participated in, around 2013. Could it really be just a PR stunt?

Reply to  MarkW
May 6, 2020 1:37 pm

H3 is quite valuable for use in very sensitive neutron-source detectors to find nuclear weapons grade plutonium hidden in shielding and remotely on aircraft by other aircraft. We have very limited supplies of H3, mainly from harvesting from tritium decay in national tritium stockpile kept for US nuclear weapons.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 6, 2020 1:41 pm

by H3 I mean helium-3, or 3He, which is 2 protons and 1 neutron nucleus. Tritium is of course 3H, 1 proton and 2 neutrons.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 6, 2020 9:44 pm

Yeah, but to mine He3 you will get a lot of H2 and normal helium.
I can’t think of much use for Helium, but hydrogen is valuable on the Moon.
But to mine He3 {and hydrogen and helium} you need large scale mining.
And if you start with large scale mining, it similar to mining the ocean for gold-
the profit from mined gold is less than the cost of mining from the ocean.

But mining lunar water could be profitable. And it will lower costs of basically everything on the Moon, once costs are lowered and probably more important you have more market demand for hydrogen, you could mine He3 {and hydrogen} on the moon. And probably most mass lifted needed to large scale mining, could be made on the Moon. But you would also be mining iron on the Moon around the same time, and probably make more money mining lunar iron. Mining lunar iron can be small scale mining, but you make more money as large scale operation.

Carl Friis-Hansen
May 6, 2020 10:28 am

Copenhagen Suborbital soon going to overtake NASA and ESA /SARC:

Surely the Danes with be the first to moonshine moonmine.

May 6, 2020 1:27 pm

The subject of human survival on the moon deserves a post of its own. Joe Scott (“Answers With Joe”) is an informative Youtuber, but at times he’s a smartass. He did a video “Could You REALLY Survive A Trip To Mars?” which sounds grim.

He highlights several problems of a Mars expedition. A few of them are applicable to lunar colonies..

7:00 into the video; radiation exposure
Here on earth, we’re protected from solar and cosmic radiation by a combination of van Allen belts and a dense atmosphere. These protections are not present on the moon. Solar radiation and flares are relatively easy to block. “Cosmic Rays” are a whole other animal. There are 2 types…

– particles moving at close to the speed of light

– electromagnetic radiation (X-rays and Gamma rays)

Either of those will either pass through thin metal or your body, or hit an atomic nucleus and splatter into a cascade of secondary radiation. This increases your chance of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Unlike solar radiation, these particles come from the entire sky, excluding the portion blocked by the moon.

15:50 into the video; cardiovascular disease
A study showed that Apollo astronauts who had ventured outside the protection of the van Allen belts were 5 times as likely as the general population to develop cardiovascular disease (clots/strokes/heart-attacks). With the exception of the aborted and shortened Apollo 13 mission, the Apollo 11 missions through 17 lasted between merely 8 to 12 days.

tldr; you do *NOT* want to live in a hut on the lunar surface for any length of time.

6:00 into the video; bone Loss in zero-G
We’ve evolved to live in 1 g. We know that the body reacts badly to extended lengths of zero g. Calcium is lost from bones, making them more fragile, and the calcium is diverted to the kidneys, causing kidney stones… ouch. How will the human body react to 1/6th g? We don’t really know.

Elon Musk to the rescue
10 metres of moon rock should provide good shielding from all sorts of radiation. Elon Musk has an exciting company called “Boring Company” (giggle) that might handle this via remote control. Since internal combustion engines don’t work in a vacuum, the drilling machines would have to be battery-powered. Elon Musk’s people know a thing or two about batteries. So drilling to a radiation-free depth should be possible.

If the human body reacts badly to extended periods of 1/6th g, Elon Musk can help out again. Ever hear of “Hyperloop”? Instead of a long straight tunnel, have the tunnel slightly curve such that it does a full 360 (i.e. a circle) over a kilometre or so. Hyperloop requires a vacuum, which exists on the moon, making things easier than on earth. Have the “train” go around the loop fast enough that the vector sum of the centripital force, plus the moon’s 1/6th g adds up to 1 g. This would be a sublunar underground equivalant of a von Braun space wheel. Unlike a spce wheel, you wouldn’t have to worry about it flying apart under the strain of centripital force. That’s because it’s going around on solid bedrock, rather than relying on metal to hold itself together in a vacuum.

Looking at the “Mission Overview” sections of the Apollo missions it looks like a 108 hour (4.5 days) trip to the moon. Then ducking underground, to possibly a hyperloop. This looks survivable.

Reply to  Walter Dnes
May 6, 2020 10:14 pm

–Elon Musk to the rescue
10 metres of moon rock should provide good shielding from all sorts of radiation. Elon Musk has an exciting company called “Boring Company” (giggle) that might handle this via remote control. Since internal combustion engines don’t work in a vacuum, the drilling machines would have to be battery-powered. Elon Musk’s people know a thing or two about batteries. So drilling to a radiation-free depth should be possible.

If the human body reacts badly to extended periods of 1/6th g, Elon Musk can help out again. Ever hear of “Hyperloop”? Instead of a long straight tunnel, have the tunnel slightly curve such that it does a full 360 (i.e. a circle) over a kilometre or so.–

The good thing about the Moon, is you don’t live there. You could live on Moon like you current live on ISS. But I call that visiting. You visit the Moon. And you mostly teleoperate on the Moon- you live on Earth and work on the Moon.
But you nothing on the moon, unless you can make rocket fuel on the Moon. And it needs to be cheap rocket fuel, and cheap is less than $2000 per kg on lunar surface.
If Musk can manage to make a very low launch cost from Earth, you “might”/maybe not need to make rocket fuel on the Moon. But if there is lunar water on the moon, you can make cheap rocket fuel.
And if had Musk cheap launch and didn’t have mineable water on the Moon, you could make LOX and import hydrogen/methane/kerosene or whatever from Earth.
But if there isn’t mineable water on the Moon, I tend to skip the Moon, and look for mineable elsewhere in space.
So, assuming there is mineable lunar water and you making rocket fuel from the water, the Moon is very attractive place to go for a lot of reason. And you could a lot lunar bases on the Moon and crew like have on ISS, in them. and operating these lunar bases could cheaper than operating ISS. But you aren’t living on the Moon.
Mars is not a place to visit, Mars is a place to live. And if you doing stuff on the Moon, Mars will be a better place to live- assuming you can live on Mars.
So need to explore Moon to see if there is mineable water, and then need to explore Mars to determine how viable it could be to live on Mars- can you have towns on Mars where people can live.
Both Moon and Mars could use a Boring machine- I think Mars needs a lot more use of a Boring Machine.
But both Moon and Mars an interesting question is how deep can dig. You certainly can dig deeper than you can dig on Earth, but more ten times deeper? How about 100 times deeper?
On Mars you might bore thru miles of ice.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Walter Dnes
May 7, 2020 5:09 pm

“Elon Musk to the rescue”? and “10 metres of moon rock should provide good shielding from all sorts of radiation.”


“Out in deep space, radiation comes from all directions. On the Moon, you might expect the ground, at least, to provide some relief, with the solid body of the Moon blocking radiation from below. Not so.

“When galactic cosmic rays collide with particles in the lunar surface, they trigger little nuclear reactions that release yet more radiation in the form of neutrons. The lunar surface itself is radioactive!

“So which is worse for astronauts: cosmic rays from above or neutrons from below? Igor Mitrofanov, a scientist at the Institute for Space Research and the Russian Federal Space Agency, Moscow, offers a grim answer: “‘Both are worse.’

“The first global mapping of neutron radiation from the Moon was performed by NASA’s Lunar Prospector probe in 1998-99. LEND [the Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector (LEND) on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter] will improve on the Lunar Prospector data by profiling the energies of these neutrons, showing what fraction are of high energy (i.e., the most damaging to people) and what fraction are of lower energies.”

— source of above-quoted text:

And then there is this: “Concentrations of radioactive elements in lunar materials” — full published article at
wherein (a) lunar igneous rocks were found to have thorium concentrations as high as 40 μg/g and uranium concentrations as high as 11μg/g, and (b) mare regoliths were found to have thorium concentrations as high as 10 μg/g and uranium concentrations as high as 3 μg/g.

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 8, 2020 10:23 pm

–Gordon Dressler May 7, 2020 at 5:09 pm
“Elon Musk to the rescue”? and “10 metres of moon rock should provide good shielding from all sorts of radiation.”


“Out in deep space, radiation comes from all directions. On the Moon, you might expect the ground, at least, to provide some relief, with the solid body of the Moon blocking radiation from below. Not so.–
We brought lunar sample back to Earth. Are they radioactive. Yes. Are they dangerously radioactive? No
Galactic cosmic rays reach the Earth’s surface. Are they dangerous? No, but they are more dangerous the higher you are in elevation. But even very high land elevation they are not dangerous. At airplane elevation, it’s a concern if spend you a lot time at this elevation- someone who is always flying or the flight crew. Does make airliners, more radioactive- I guess it does.
Is that dangerous? I don’t think so.
Now ISS is in Earth’s high atmosphere {also called space, or earth orbit].
Do astronauts receive a lot radiation from galactic cosmic rays, yes.
A year’s exposure from galactic cosmic rays that astronauts get, exceeds radiation dose allowable for workplace exposure to radiation within a year.
Does it make ISS radioactive, again, likely.
Is anyone worried about ISS getting more radioactive? That’s almost an interesting question.
Or seems like it might be a consideration in terms of the design of ISS- or, are there any materials which are better or worse? But I think {or I imagine} one have allow for 50 or 100 year lifetime designs, before this becomes a question.
But I do think it’s important to think of spacestation designs for 50 to 100 years.
I imagine, NASA doesn’t think it is important at the moment.
I going to google: Do aircraft become more radioactive if flying at high elevation?
“Scientists already knew that there was more radiation at higher altitudes; a long-haul flight can give you the same exposure as a chest X-ray. However, it was a surprise when, during six of 265 test flights, radiation levels shot up far beyond the normal levels.”
Nope nothing about the aircraft. Nor here:
but mentions flying low over water lowers the radiation.
They are concerned about “space weathering effects” in terms of damaging material of spacecraft, but I have not run across concern about material becoming radioactive.
But time periods of millions of years, it is an issue. Ie:
But not issue because dangerous, but rather because it is detectable/measurable.

–“When galactic cosmic rays collide with particles in the lunar surface, they trigger little nuclear reactions that release yet more radiation in the form of neutrons. The lunar surface itself is radioactive!–
Yes, but a banana is more radioactive than most foods. Earth is radioactive, the Moon could be more radioactive than Earth, but galactic cosmic rays far more of problem, then merely background radiation.
There is issue which what called secondary radiation, I think called “secondary radiation shower”,
search: “When cosmic rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere they collide with atoms and molecules, mainly oxygen and nitrogen. The interaction produces a cascade of lighter particles, a so-called air shower secondary radiation that rains down, including x-rays, muons, protons, alpha particles, pions, electrons, and neutrons.”
This happens in an instant, rather the slow and constant radioactive decay” and it can be better to have human body be hit by a cosmic rays, rather cosmic ray hitting stuff, which then produces a secondary radiation shower from the near light speed of a cosmic particle {which in most cases is a proton}.
And it’s also possible that cosmic rays can pass thru a human without interacting- or six inches depth of water can stop some cosmic rays, though water stopping it don’t create a secondary radiation shower, but more than 1/2 of cosmic rays will go thru six inches of water.
So if going to shield cosmic rays, make thick enough {10 meter is plenty}, or use water or other material hydrogen in it, like say, hydrocarbon plastics, that reduces it, while not making secondary radiation showers which could more lethal than compared the cosmic rays.
Anyhow if on the Moon, you will get less GCR, than being in space 10,000 km away from the Moon.
If on Moon in deep crater, you get less than being on moon on a mountain top- unless under 10 meter of lunar regolith, or swimming in swimming pool on the lunar mountain top.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  gbaikie
May 9, 2020 10:17 am

Whew! Perhaps you should send your post to Russian scientist Igor Mitrofanov.

In any event, my simple question to you is: Given the measured concentrations of radioactive thorium and uranium that I referenced in my post above, how long before the resulting radiation levels at an average separation distance of, say, 3 meters constitute dangerous exposures for a human?

Reply to  Gordon Dressler
May 9, 2020 6:34 pm

Thorium. wiki: “Thorium is a weakly radioactive metallic chemical element with the symbol Th and atomic number 90.”
If go to backyard you can find Thorium and Uranium- in trace amount- not a rock which is pure, but in tons “dirt” if refined it be could few lbs of it. A significant aspect of Thorium is it’s more abundant than Uranium, about 3 times as I recall. But both Thorium and Uranium are fairly abundant, but to mine either, you find places where it’s more abundant than you backyard.
More from Wiki:
“Natural thorium is usually almost pure 232Th, which is the longest-lived and most stable isotope of thorium, having a half-life comparable to the age of the universe. Its radioactive decay is the largest single contributor to the Earth’s internal heat; …”
I did not know that, it’s interesting trivia type question thing. Anyways, if something has short 1/2 life, then it’s more radioactive. Like Carbon 14 has half-life of 5,730 years. Or Carbon 14 is far more radioactive than thorium. And wiki’s weakly radioactive is understatement in in terms 232Th, but less common isotopes which would be part of thorium has shorter 1/2 life. Or since carbon also would carbon 14 isotopes in any piece carbon- like say a pencil or some coal or wood- carbon is also “slightly radioactive”- or most common carbon isotope, isn’t radioactive, likewise 232Th is barely or not practically
radioactive. But most common carbon and most common 232Th can made radioactive.
But the significant of 232Th is can made into the uncommon and very radioactive isotope of common Uranium. One can easily make Uranium nuclear fuel if you put thorium within nuclear reactor which emitting a lot neutrons- I think it take many months to years within a reactor to make a sizable percentage of it.
Also the first nuclear used graphite as moderator of neutons, and the graphite also was converted into Carbon 14. But carbon 14 also is naturally made- it’s atmosphere and everywhere- but concentrated enough to be a problem, they emit beta particles, which are stopped by sheet of paper- or our outer dead skin stops them. But within our body, it could be a problem {if concentrated enough}.
Anyhow they found “mineable” amount thorium on the Moon- though one might be able to find more mineable [more concentrated] places on Earth. But Moon has much lower density than Earth- so you could be “surprised” of it’s abundance on the Moon.
But not surprised, if aware of “theory” that most heavy metals found on Earth surface are from space impactors, or something like 90% what we are mining, came from a space rocks- but it’s a “theory”. But in terms a fact, one of Canada largest mines is mining nickel from a big impactor.

May 6, 2020 2:32 pm

How about we just watch a lot of YouTube videos on the Exploring Abandoned Mines channel instead.

Tom Schaefer
May 7, 2020 6:41 am

The Moon is a space mining boondoggle for now. It should be noted that the two serious space mining companies to form (and effectively dissolve) over the last decade “Deep Space Industries” and “Planetary Resources” were near-Earth (low delta-V) ASTEROID mining focused. The Moon, for now, is a >2km/sec gravity hole. We will need efficient O’Neill “Mass Drivers” and bootstrap an L-2 infrastructure to make lunar mining viable ( ) . Why can’t people grow up and do some engineering? One small step for a man, one giant leap into idiocracy.

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