Building a Lunar Iron Mine

Building a Lunar iron mine

Photo – http://www.miningartifacts.org/Minnesota-MInes.html

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

Agglutinates

Lunar Agglutinates – NASA photos S69-54827 and S87-38812. From Lunar Sourcebook, pg 296

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

Iron

Iron

Lunar iron-rich rock – images-assets.nasa.gov/image/S69-45009/S69-45009~orig.jpg

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

Troilite

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

Olivine

Lunar olivine

Apollo 15 olivine basalt – Photo by Wknight94 talk – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16937937

 

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.

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Pyroxene

Pyroxene

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

Mineral iron

Mineral iron

NASA – images-assets.nasa.gov/image/S72-55208/S72-55208~orig.jpg

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