The Significance of Lunar Water Ice and Other Mineral Resources for Rocket Propellants and Human Settlement of the Moon
William A. Ambrose, 2013. "The Significance of Lunar Water Ice and Other Mineral Resources for Rocket Propellants and Human Settlement of the Moon", Energy Resources for Human Settlement in the Solar System and Earth’s Future in Space, William A. Ambrose, James F. Reilly, II, Douglas C. Peters
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Future success in exploration and human habitation of the solar system will depend on space missions and settlements becoming more self-sustaining through exploitation of extraterrestrial (i.e., local) energy and material resources. For example, the Moon contains a wide variety of energy minerals and other resources that can potentially be used for manufacture of propellants for space transportation, volatiles for manufacture of chemicals, and metals for construction of solar power facilities, industrial plants, and structures for human habitation. If water ice in polar regions on the Moon is proven to exist in large quantities, these resources could not only support human habitation but could also be used to manufacture rocket propellants, reducing dependency on Earth for these resources, thereby making human space exploration more economically viable. Moreover, the lower gravity well of the Moon could be used as a launching site for missions to Mars and other worlds in the solar system, given the possibility of water-ice and other lunar resources. New exploration tools will need to be developed to fully and accurately characterize the potential lunar resource base. For example, detection and quantification of suspected water-ice resource in lunar polar regions in recent missions involve an array of technologies not commonly used in hydrocarbon exploration on Earth, such as synthetic aperture radar, epithermal neutron detectors, and imaging of reflected ultraviolet starlight using Lyman-alpha scattering properties. Optimal locations for potential lunar bases and industrial facilities reflect several factors that include the distribution of water ice, volatiles (nitrogen), nuclear materials (helium-3, thorium, and uranium), and metals (titanium, magnesium, and iron). Other important factors are the duration of insolation (sunlight), where solar power facilities could be constructed in polar areas with constant or near-constant illumination, as well as strategies that involve key orbital positions (Lagrangian points) to maximize fuel resources using less overall delta-v, defined as incremental change in spacecraft velocity to achieve a new orbital configuration.
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This publcation is a comprehensive and integrated review of energy and mineral resources in the Solar System, including materials that can both sustain future manned expeditions and colonies in space and support Earth's energy and critical material challenges in the 21st century and beyond. All long-range programs for human exploration and settlement of the solar system recognize the vital role that extraterrestrial energy and mineral resources must play in support of human habitation of near Earth Space and the Moon, Mars, and the Asteroids. Produced in colaboration with the AAPG Energy Minerals Division and the AAPG Astrogeology Committee, this Memoir reflects AAPG's vision of advancing the science and technology of energy, minerals, and hydrocarbon resources into the future and supporting exploration and development of the ultimate frontier, beyond Earth's atmosphere.