SpaceX Starship (How SpaceX is Changing Starship to be Able to Land on the Moon), more than a capsule and a lander, and a dune buggy. I encourage you to read the article cited.

Project Artemis is well underway and absent other difficulties, will take Americans (and American allies) back to the moon in four years (2024). Part of the build out for the return to the moon (at some time more distant than four years from now) includes a Lunar space station.

Lunar ‘ground’ stations and a Lunar satellite network will have to eventually be profitable. Mining tritium and other mining efforts will have to offer a value greater than the infrastructure cost of putting them in place, and I’m skeptical that we can pull that off absent exploration breakthroughs. Small nuclear reactors in the general class being made by Rolls Royce could be lifted to the Moon. I realize that there is a current prohibition to lifting this sort of fission material into space, but I expect that this might be an exception if they want sufficient power at a permanent station.

The Theia Impact

Nearly half a century old belief that the Earth and Moon are composed of the same material has been proven false by a new study published last March (2020).

The Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. The most-accepted hypothesis among astronomers and space scientists is that the Moon was formed by the collision of two proto-planets, namely, Theia, a mars-size rock and the newly born Earth. A substantial part of the collision debris fused to form the Moon.

This theory of Moon formation came to be known as the Giant Impact Hypothesis. As per the hypothesis, the composition of the Moon must be a mixture of Theia and Earth. This was suggested to be false, by the samples taken from the Apollo Mission back in the 1970s. The analysis of these lunar samples revealed that the Moon and Earth have the same composition, due to similarity in the oxygen isotopes found within the rocks.

The latest study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, revealed that the Moon is indeed composed of different rock materials than Earth’s.

The scientists arrived at this conclusion after studying different rock compositions of the Moon taken from the deeper lunar mantle, around 30 miles beneath the Moon’s outer surface. The results suggest that the rocks from below the Moon’s surface have different oxygen isotope composition that the rocks on Earth. However, the ones on the surface were found to be similar to Earth’s rock.

“Our data suggest that samples derived from the deep lunar mantle, which are isotopically heavy compared to Earth, have isotopic compositions that are most representative of the proto- lunar impactor ‘Theia’,” according to the paper.

The findings indicate that the massive collision led to the exchange and mix of debris between the two celestial objects. While most of this debris deposited on the surface of the Moon, the remnants of Theia were deposited in the core-mantle of the lunar surface, soon after the collision.

This being the case, a more in depth exploration of the Lunar surface may be called for, and the minerals which may be mined including ‘rare earth’ could be of considerable value.

11 COMMENTS

  1. When I read the words “small reactor” for the moon on a page with all the rest of this new reality, (it fits in really well with the science fiction I grew up with) I had visions of a much smaller reactor. That vision was due to the SF I read as a kid… After reading the reactor article I can see it! Smaller is a good word for what they are trying to do.
    It would be something to see SpaceX land a rocket on the moon! Their landings back on earth just look “right”!
    You wrote a fine piece this morning, got my day started right!

  2. It has always seemed to me that there are National Stock Numbers for nuclear reactors and the Navy’s record of reactor use is without a single serious incident (that we know of). I figure that as an ex-Navy guy you know this. So consider the top of the line A4W reactors; there are two of these on a Nimitz class carrier, each one at over 100 MW. The way I figure it, each one is enough for about 15,000 homes here on terra firma, so I’d imagine it could support a decent small settlement on the moon.

    Now I’m gonna bet that they depend on having all that cooling water around the hull and powerful pumps online all the time, but it make me think of it as a starting point for a way to run settlements on the moon.

    A couple of years ago, I saw an article on a Nuclear powered Stirling motor electrical generators (whew!) called Krusty that was intended for moon or Mars use. They were limited to 10 kW, which is small compared to the A4W, but there’s lots of room to install them there.

    • Maybe there will be a highly closed cooling system that will work for an adequate reactor or system of reactors on the moon. I think that the liquid sodium reactor may be the way to go, but I’m not expert. You’d need to take the A4W reactors and modify them for use on the Moon, and that may be the way to go. Solar is not the answer IMHO.

  3. As a fervent flat earther myself, I always subscribed to the theory of the moon being composed primarily of green cheese. If we start digging underneath the moon’s crust, I suspect that Roquefort might be the first layer encountered, then perhaps a little deeper we will run into a vein of Bleu Cheese.

    We will all find out when Elon Musk gets there.

  4. We need a Manhattan Project for nuclear fusion that isn’t shut down by competing interests. I have a friend that was at the Princeton years ago working on his PhD in Nuclear Physics. He said that they were near some breakthroughs in nuclear fusion when the program he was on which was government funded was just all of a sudden shut down. Whether wishful thinking, regret or resentment, he put some blame on the fossil fuel industry that has a big pull in Washington D.C.

    Nuclear fusion on the Moon, on Mars and powering the spacecraft that take us between them would probably move the multi-planetary dream faster.

    • France has been leading the drive to hot fusion and I suspect that cold fusion was a blind alley. Fusion will change everything – and one day we’ll have it, but I doubt that it will arrive in my own personal lifetime.

    • I’ve been hoping for that for a long time. It would definitely change how we look at the universe.

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