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Earth's moon taunts. A growing chorus of experts views this "eighth continent" as a nearby world of natural resources sitting there at the edge of Earth's gravity well, ready for the picking.
Visionary zeal aside, clarity is step one. Wanted is the right combination of vision, gobs of moon moolah, make-it-happen technologies and the political willpower to unlock the moon's wealth.
Report - Lunar - Propellant - Architecture - Study
A recent report — "Commercial Lunar Propellant Architecture: A Collaborative Study of Lunar Propellant Production" — has cut to the chase, detailing what's needed and what happens next. This appraisal by industry writers, NASA, lunar scientists and space lawyers focused on extracting water from the moon's permanently shadowed regions for use as rocket fuel.
The report explains that, combined with reusable upper stages and landers, a space-based supply of propellant has long been seen as the key that could enable cost-efficient access to much of the inner solar system.
Confirmation - Volatiles - Access - Point - Supply
Moreover, the recent confirmation of lunar polar volatiles provides an access point to a supply line of in-space propellant. Refueling can "linearize" the rocket equation, the study suggests.
A newly developed extraction technique for deployment on the moon called thermal mining makes use of mirrors to exploit sun-shy, water-ice-laden polar craters.
Assessment - Points - Belief - Desert - Gold
The over-170-page assessment points to an untarnished belief: "In the desert, gold is useless and water is priceless."
Past science missions to the moon have provided direct evidence that sun-shy regions near the lunar poles are repositories of water ice. Once validated via ground truth, this resource could also be split into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis. The oxygen could then be used for life support, and hydrogen and oxygen can be combusted for rocket propulsion.
Thanks - Moon - Gravity - Paper - Products
But there's more. Thanks to the moon's shallow gravity well, the paper argues, those water-derived products can be exported to fuel entirely new economic opportunities in space.
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