Researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) are putting together a plan to try and mine materials from the moon.
A team from UCF is pairing with NASA and California aerospace company TransAstra Corporation to try and gather ice from the moon. The end goal is to use the moon to travel into deep space, something UCF physics Professor Dan Britt said is long overdue.
“If you want to change the parameters of how human civilization lives, you have to explore,” he said.
Britt’s partner will be post-doctoral physics scholar Kevin Cannon who told Florida Daily once there is an outpost on the moon, the push will be on to get further.
“There’s been this kind of stasis in terms of getting humans out of low Earth orbit and actually starting to develop space,” Cannon said. “I think this is a small first step, but it’s important to establish something like an outpost that is semi-permanent. I think that goes a long way to getting people into space to stay sustainable.”
To get there, ice mined from the moon could be used as a type of rocket fuel. Cannon will help the miners find it on the poles of the moon.
“These depots are the gas stations that allow you to have infrastructure and economy in space,” Cannon said. “Getting that water out of the ground is a first step because it’s just so expensive to launch it from Earth. So, you really cut down on the cost of space development by mining it on the moon.”
The theory is that the water could be split and the hydrogen used to propel rockets to deep space.
UCF has some time to make it work since the U.S. will not likely put a man back on the moon for at least another five years. Even after that, an outpost would have to be built to mine the water. Selecting a location for the outpost would involve balancing the need to be close to a region cold enough to harbor frozen volatiles such as water but also near sunlight, a vital source of energy for solar-powered equipment doing work in space.
Another challenge will be building on lunar permafrost which is solid until it is hot when it begins to melt. Britt said overcoming this challenge could involve using similar building strategies to those used in polar regions on Earth, such as in Alaska, that involve using insulation or building below the permafrost.
At first robots will likely begin the mining, but eventually, man could outfit these lunar outposts on the poles with UCF leading the way on how to get the most out of the operation.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.