The book “Space Resources: Vol 3 – Materials” starts with a very interesting chapter titled “To Build a Mine: Prospect to Product” written by Richard E. Gertsuch. His paper details how to take a mining operation from conception to selling a marketable product. The paper’s focus is on Lunar-derived liquid oxygen. Ours is on metallic iron. While our Homesteaders may not plan on selling their iron, I figured it could be an interesting thought experiment. Continue reading
Agglutinates are particles composed of mineral grains, glasses, rocks, and other agglutinates that are bonded together by melted glass. Within each agglutinate are very small particles of pure iron (along with a bunch of other important stuff) and chunks of iron bearing minerals. That makes agglutinates a prime target for iron extraction. Continue reading
Lunar iron is the key to permanent, small scale settlements. At least that’s my hypothesis. Now I’ve got to prove it. The first step is to determine all the relevant properties of the iron we’re likely to find on the Lunar surface. Continue reading
Troilite (FeS) is the most common sulfide mineral found in Lunar rocks. It is found in all the samples, although at less than 1% by volume (Lunar Sourcebook, 150). It is commonly found with ilmenite, spinel, and native Fe so we better plan for it (Lunar Sourcebook, 150). The best place to find higher concentrations is in mare basalts. Plus, sulfur would be useful if we could capture it. Continue reading
Named by combining the names of the Apollo 11 astronauts (ARMstrong, Aldrin, COLlins). Armacolite was the first new mineral discovered on Luna. Armalcolite is a metal oxide mineral. Continue reading
Spinel, a metal oxide, is the second most abundant oxide mineral on Luna. Continue reading
Ilmenite is the most abundant oxide mineral found in Lunar rocks. This is good because it has a very useful composition (FeTiO3). Ilmenite is also the principal ore for titanium on Earth. We can easily (relatively) extract iron, oxygen, and titanium dioxide from ilmenite.
Olivine is a major Lunar mineral, with significant concentrations found in most samples. The good news is that the iron variant, fayalite, is the most common type of olivine. We definitely want olivine when we start extracting iron.
Pyroxene is a chemically complex group of silicate minerals with many variations. The generic formula for pyroxene is XY(Si,Al)2O6, with X and Y representing many types of elements. Pyroxene rocks can contain a mix of any of 20 different subgroups. Only a few of these pyroxene subgroups contain the iron we’re after. Continue reading
Lunar free iron is great but it’s just not plentiful enough to do everything we need to do. We’re going to have to get most of the iron (and other materials) we need from Lunar rocks. Luckily, much of the resources an expanding homestead needs are readily available right on the Lunar surface. All we have to do is scoop it up and refine it. Continue reading