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Dr. Greg Baiden, Sunday, 01-02-11 January 2, 2011

Posted by The Space Show in Uncategorized.

Dr. Greg Baiden, Sunday, 01-02-11


Guest:  Dr. Greg Baiden.  Topics: Mining the Moon/NEO.  You are invited to comment, ask questions, & discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments, questions, & any discussion must be applicable to Space Show programming.  Visit Dr. Baiden’s website, www.penguinasi.com/industrial.  In our first segment, Dr. Baiden introduced telerobotic and automated mining and said that mining the Moon would be easier than mining a NEO.  He talked about mining lunar water as an example. What was needed would be to have customers & he suggested LEO to service both human spaceflight and GEO traffic using fuel storage depots.  For NEOs to be a possibility, he said we would need 100% robotic capability and we are not there yet.  He also suggested the market would have to be larger than the ISS needs.  We discussed what should come first, the market or the capability to mine lunar water and get it to LEO.  We talked about how such a project would be done and he suggested public/private partnerships.  Later in the show, due to policy and regulatory issues, he suggested that the private sector would probably have the best chance of doing this as they would not be so regulatory bound as government.  Other issues discussed with listeners dealt with power for the lunar mining equipment, all of the space transport needs from launch to landing on the Moon to launching from the Moon to rendezvousing with the orbital depot.  Greg explained that on Earth in low cost labor markets like China, the trend was moving to automated mining, mostly to move the humans away from operations for safety reasons.  He talked about mining under water as relevant to the Moon because of the ability to simulate lunar gravity.  At the end of this segment, we started talking about repair capabilities and logistically being able to deal with mining consumables, mainly steel.  In the second segment, we talked about underground mining and avoiding strip mining.  Sandra emailed in about hurting the lunar environment and this opened a short discussion on lunar and space environmental issues.  I cut the discussion short for reasons you will hear on air & I hope this does not become an out of proportion blog topic.  That said, Greg had some important things to say on this issue given his vast experience in the industry.  We should all take note of his wisdom.  Later in this segment, Greg identified the four initial piece of equipment he would send to the Moon and we talked about having the equipment fixed in one spot or being movable to different locations on the Moon.  As this segment ended, our discussion addressed nuclear power for the lunar mining equipment and policy which both Greg and I suggested would be far more of a challenge than the financing, technology, and engineering.  In our final segment, we asked Greg how international mining companies dealt with the myriad of regulations from different nations given they operate in countries around the world.  He said what was needed was a land clause and for space this would be a resolution to the property rights issue.  The real estate issue for space mining would have to have a resolution for mining to be successful.  He said the first party to do it would have a far easier time of it than subsequent companies.  Don’t miss his comments on this important issue.  I asked Dr. Baiden about the treaties and he said they were probably insufficient for commercial mining operations.  We also talked about the concept of benefit sharing for all humanity.  At the end, he was asked about mining Platinum Group Metals (PGM) from the Moon.  As for a plausible time line, if the policy part of this process went smoothly, perhaps we could stat some sort of operations within ten to twenty years.  His last question was about the probable cause of the Chile mining accident a few months ago.  Post questions & comments on the blog & send them to me for forwarding.

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1. Andy Hill - January 6, 2011

Great Program David, what I liked most about it was that your guest came from outside the normal space community and gave a view from a different industry. I think that to much preaching to the choir goes on in the space community and the discussion needs to be expanded into other industries.

More shows like this please.

2. Fred Willett - January 5, 2011

Very interesting show David.
However the problem with the moon is that it has really not been explored yet.
The Apollo data sets give only samples from 6 sites plus there is data from a couple of russian sites.
That and lots of pretty photos from orbit.
But that’s just about it.
The inference that has been drawn is that the moon is fairly uniform. Only two types of regolith have been found.
The moon has no tectonics.
No weathering, and therefore probably has no mineralization.
But how do we know, really, until we explore.
The water at the poles took everyone by surprise.
And it may well turn out that there are usefull resources elsewhere on the moon.
Lunar outgassing hints at deposits of water elsewhere on the moon beside the poles.
Who knows. Perhaps in mineable quantities.
We won’t know any of this until we really start to explore the surface and subsurface in some detail.
Have mineral concentrations been deposited by cometary and meteor impacts for example.
I’m inclined to think that something like this is likely. After all the moon is far from small and there could well be lots of stuff waiting to be found.

Andy Hill - January 6, 2011

I am dissappointed that more rovers have not been sent to the Moon to survey the geology and search for useful resources. Trying to do these things from orbit is no real substitute for having wheels on the ground (or better still a human presence).

I dont understand why no one has sent a rover there in years especially since the discoveries from orbit would suggest that that would be the next logical step. Has any agency got a Moon rover in production (actually being built as opposed to being planned) at the moment?

Kelly Starks - January 6, 2011

Given Rovers “have been done” sending one up would not be considerd as headline worthy — hence not as interesting.

I don’t think any nations working on a lunar rover?

3. Kelly Starks - January 4, 2011

Dear Dr. Greg Baiden.
Interesting show. I certainly agree that mining seem virtually the only reason for major settlement of areas of space. [The “we’ll go colonize there to fulfill the human desire to expand” crowd probably never did real estate development, much less colonizing.]

My concern with this and other proposals to mine space, is the numbers quickly break down when you do a trade study against just lifting more cargo from Earth. Given Earth launch costs relate to the fixed cost divided by the number of launches per year. The total cost per year doesn’t really increase any with extra numbers of flights per year. Adding more fixed cost to develop and field extra systems for lunar mining gear and Lunar to LEO freighters, can easily double the fixed costs. So you roughly double the effective program costs per year. So it’s always cheaper to just launch material from Earth.

What ideas did you have to get around that to make space based mining economical? I realize you did say you weren’t a aerospace guy, but the transportation cost so dominate the economics of space (or really Earth) mining concepts, you must have considered this?

[I’m looking at the same issue, but focusing more on future transportation craft – and pretty much assume no economical way to mine with current generation craft.]

A second issue for Lunar mining is Lunar soil is not soil, but extremely small and sharp rock chips. (Think obsidian sharp edges.) which chews up all moving parts (even space suit parts) extremely rapidly. Just to be more of a pain, it electrostatically sticks to everything. How could you get around these issues?

Have you looked at NEO mining issues? I.E. how do you mine floating frozen rubble piles?

4. Trent Waddington - January 3, 2011

The discussion about environmental concerns was pretty ill-informed, as usual. Yes, there’s no life on the Moon. No, life is not a prerequisite for environmental concerns. Consider the term “natural landscape” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_landscape). The Moon definitely has a natural landscape and people are clearly interested in preserving it. That said, how much concern should we give these people? About the same as we give people who want to preserve natural landscapes on Earth.. we pay them lip service and then move on with Progress.

Paul A. Lake - January 3, 2011

(David, I hope you will allow my response to Trent. I will keep my post focused on space advocacy.)

Trent, I think your attitude regarding environmentalists is misguided. Space exploration, development, and settlement would be of great benefit to the environment on Earth. We should look for common ground with the environmental movement. The environmental movement is large and influential. If main stream environmental groups could be persuaded to value space they would make a powerful ally.

Trent Waddington - January 4, 2011

Paul, of course I advocate that. I also advocate actually bothering to understand the issue and articulating their concerns accurately.

But this is not a discussion about space advocacy. This is a discussion about mining. Mining companies are notoriously dismissive of any environmental concerns that threaten, well, mining. Suggesting that mining companies should do otherwise is to suggest that water not be wet.

Kelly Starks - January 4, 2011

Mining companies are not that hostile to cleaning up after themselves – though obviously when your tearing apart mountains – its messy. Environmentalists are not necessary interested in what best for the environment, and certainly not interested in whats best for humanity. [Hell the often explicitly consider human civilization, and improving standards of living , are problems to be suppressed.]

REally though – what possible mechanism is their to choose how neat minners need to be in space? If you consume a NEO, scrape down craters, etc – how important is that? Who chooses? Who can enforce it?

Rob Miller - January 26, 2011

The Green Lobby is trying to make CO2 a pollutant. Breath is dangerous, lol. SAVE THE MOON.

Rob Miller - January 26, 2011

Paul Spudis put up that paper recently on a surface option, but both routes will are worth exploiting.

Kelly Starks - January 26, 2011

They’ld like moon miners then – they are sealed in airtight canisters and can’t breath out into the environment of the Moon. ;)

5. Jim Nobles - January 2, 2011

I was surprised to hear about digging in and burrowing instead of going after surface resources if they are there. I’d imagined the higher priority would be to remove the surface volatiles and water if they were there in enough quantity. I would think it would be much more economical.

On the other hand any mine shafts created may have value of their own for radiation protection and other shelter.

Paul A. Lake - January 3, 2011

Excellent program!

Dr. Baiden, if you are reading these blog posts I hope you can answer a concern I’ve heard regarding mining water on the moon. Would the extremely cold temperatures that robotic equipment would be exposed to be a potential show stopper? How big a technical challenge is tele-operation in these cryogenic temperatures?

Paul ( in beautiful Fresno, CA)

Andy Hill - January 4, 2011

I thought that Helium 3, often stated as one of the main reasons for mining the Moon, was concentrated in the top few metres of lunar regolith.

This would indicate that digging deep holes would not be needed and scrapping the top surface layer off might be appropriate.

Kelly Starks - January 4, 2011

Helium 3 is concentrated on the surface. Its also currently worthless, and (outside of space advocates) no projections it ever will be very valuable, since there are other equally useful fusion fuels available on Earth – and it could be synthesized on Earth..

Andy Hill - January 6, 2011

I was just pointing out that the type of mining operation undertaken (open caste or sub-surface) is dependant upon where the resource is found not whether it is better for environmentalists or human living conditions on the Moon.

If a surface operation was needed I dont see the environmentalist argument of spoiling the asthetics of the Moon applying as there would be little difference between this and a crater caused by any meteorite hitting the Moon.

Kelly Starks - January 6, 2011

I think some folks are like Carl Sagan who wanted nothing disturbed for eternity. Its been that way for millions of years and should be cherished etc etc.

Frankly you’re right – hardly anyone could tell much difference other then the tire treads.

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