Luna has water. We now know this is a fact. Not a lot of water and it’s probably in forms that could be difficult to extract. But it’s there. The real challenge isn’t technical. It’s having the foresight to use this scarce resource responsibly. Future Lunar Homesteaders will judge us harshly if we make the wrong choices.My primary concern is that many plans call for using Lunar ice to make rocket propellant. This is a short-sighted and irresponsible use of a precious and rare resource in my opinion. Lunar water, which is in limited supply, should be used exclusively for life support. Here are the reasons:
- There are other propellant options that don’t require hydrogen and would be just as profitable. Cis-Lunar transportation does not require the high ISP that LH-LOX provides.
- Lunar Homesteads are going to need lots of hydrogen for water production. It’s far more economical to extract it from Luna than it is to ship it from Earth (or asteroids eventually).
- Hydrogen will also be needed for many resource extraction processes.
- Liquid hydrogen is notoriously difficult to store.
We’ll need to develop new rockets to take advantage of resources that are plentiful on Luna instead of taking the small amount of hydrogen left on the surface. Check out the Transportation section for more information.
Lunar Ice Data
Resources (I’ve looked at)
- Commercial Lunar Propellant Architecture – Long, in-depth analysis of what it would take to establish a profitable Lunar propellant infrastructure using polar ice. It’s really good and definitely worth reading. The only point I really disagree on is that of using Lunar ice for propellant (see above). This plan is definitely NOT based on Lunar Homesteading principals. But ANYTHING that gets us back to Luna is worth doing. Good luck!
- Their first key point is that all work is done by robotics. No humans are involved. This is the complete opposite of Lunar Homesteading. Robots working in space doesn’t inspire imagination and hope. Humans do.
- The paper proposes processing 2,450 metric tons of water every year. This is a huge amount of water. Additionally, the plan requires 2.8MW of power. This plan is definitely not simple or small scale.
- Polar locations may not be ideal for Homestead construction due to less basalt and iron oxides.
- Volatiles are important but it may be more efficient to plan on importing them instead of hunting for them. It’s great if we find them doing our other stuff though.
- Direct evidence of surface exposed water ice in the lunar polar regions – It’s pretty technical but the paper shows that there is most likely some kind of surface ice in the areas of permanent shadow. Of course, this is using remote sensing so we won’t really know what is going on until someone sends a robot to find out.