Lunar Resources: Beyond the Fringe

A new, somewhat philosophical post up at Air & Space on the recent Royal Astronomical Society meeting in London on using space resources.  By the way, that great, appropriate title (alluding to the British comedy group) was a suggestion of my editor at Air & Space, Tony Reichhardt.  Thanks, Tony!

The meeting in London was a good one, with lots of interesting presentations.  Comments on the post are welcome.

On another note, I will be on The Space Show this coming Sunday (May 1, 2016) at 2:00 pm Central time, discussing my new book, The Value of the Moon.  Feel free to listen and call in the show with questions or comments.

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13 Responses to Lunar Resources: Beyond the Fringe

  1. Grand Lunar says:

    Would you still characterize lunar ISRU as fringe today?
    It does seem this way at times. Past time, I think, it becomes mainstream.

    The phased approach you describe sounds like how a mining town is made on Earth.
    Similar idea then?

    I can just imagine what it would be like to see roads being paved on the Moon, construction equipment roving about, etc.

    Time to make it happen!

    • Paul Spudis says:

      Would you still characterize lunar ISRU as fringe today?

      I never characterized it that way. I was making the point that some engineers believed that (and some still do). That’s why I thought the title was a good one.

      • Joe says:

        Just to keep on the positive note, as one of those “conservative” engineers; many of us have been more favorable to use of Lunar ISRU for some time now.

        It is management (understandably – they would be the ones responsible for risking resources) that has been reluctant.

        That may be changing as well. Note the link below that includes discussion of ULA’s Cis-Lunar 1000 proposal.

        I have some reservations about the specific approach, but that is not the important point. It is not unusual for lower ranking engineers (like myself) to support such proposals, but here Tory Bruno (ULA CEO) is publically talking favorably about it.

        • Paul Spudis says:

          I did say “some engineers.”

          A lot of the resistance to ISRU is cultural — it’s not been done because “we don’t do that.” And I agree with you that attitudes are changing, hence, the theme of my post.

          • Joe says:

            “A lot of the resistance to ISRU is cultural — it’s not been done because “we don’t do that.” ”

            That is certainly true. Good to know the culture (however slowly) may be changing.

            By the way, just got my copy of “The Value of the Moon” from Barnes and Noble and am really looking forward to reading it.

            Congratulations again on its publication.

        • billgamesh says:

          Bruno’s recent space cadet statements are in my view just a reply to NewSpace marketing. He is in the satellite business, not the Moon business. This is the critical detail that nobody gets.

          The first thing required to send humans to the Moon is the same thing that was required a half a century ago: One million plus pound thrust rocket engines like the F-1. The 21st century version of five F-1 engines is two 5 segment SRB’s.

          If ULA was serious about going to the Moon they would first of all be looking at the missing piece of the puzzle- and I have commented on this several times:

          The multi-million pound thrust pressure fed ocean recovered reusable booster as originally specified for the shuttle is the missing piece of hardware in any cislunar infrastructure scheme.

      • Grand Lunar says:

        Thanks for the clarification.

        I think I was also thinking of the media, not just engineers.

        Looking forward to the new book, BTW.

        • Joe says:

          You are probably correct that there is still some “fringe” mentality where the media is concerned.

          Reporters who will accept all kinds of assertions from a Musk (because they consider him an authority figure), will be more skeptical of proposals coming from an unknown engineer.

          That is the reason that books from folks like Dr. Spudis and public statements from people like Bruno (as per post above) are important.

          The changing attitude can then change among the press.

  2. Dr. Spudis, I purchased a Kindle version of your book yesterday for my I-pad. I just started reading it today and its already very informative and a great read.

    Thank you for publishing this!


  3. billgamesh says:

    “-first use the resources that require the least amount of processing.”

    The regular commenters here know what I am going to say: it is all about the ice.
    Dr. Spudis allows me to post dozens of comments each year that basically paraphrase and repeat the same simple set of precepts and principles. For humans in space, radiation is square one, etc.

    The NewSpace infomercials drone on and repeat themselves on the half a dozen popular space blogs: also paraphrasing and repeating a simple set of precepts and principles. It is interesting that what I alone am posting on the one blog that allows me to express my views (I have been banned or trolled into oblivion everywhere else) is almost exactly the opposite of what is endlessly regurgitated by a legion of sycophants year after year.

    It goes something like this-

    NewSpace mythology places Elon Musk in the same category as the fictional Ayn Rand heroes John Galt and Howard Roark. I place him in the same category as P.T. Barnum and John Delorean.

    NewSpace libertarian concepts blame NASA and corrupt “OldSpace” companies for keeping humankind trapped in LEO (it is a conspiracy…kind of). I consider NewSpace to be what is keeping humankind trapped in LEO and the worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration.
    There is no cheap.

    The NewSpace business plan is about cheap inferior lift vehicles (hobby rockets), tourist space stations for the ultra-rich, and orbital fuel depots as the the way to “open up the solar system.”
    I call this ridiculous mess of supposedly reusable cheaper than dirt rockets going to Mars a scam.

    Any plan that has a chance of success of going to the Moon is antithetical to NewSpace. The proof of this is the demonizing of the SLS program. Any who doubt this need only look at the references listed on the wikipedia SLS page and they will marvel at some of the death-to-SLS articles cited.

    Government agencies sending Super Heavy Lift Vehicles directly to the Moon for public works projects dump the NewSpace LEO business plan in the trashcan. For this reason NewSpace does everything it can to shout down any such efforts leading to lunar ISRU.

    NewSpace is NOT about space (LEO is not really space) and is in reality the enemy of space exploration. As long as this keeps being ignored the more damage will accrue. The horrific effects NewSpace has had on public opinion is not really understood by most space advocates. But any attempt at reversing the brainwashing their absurd Orwellian playbook has effected on the citizenry reveals a truly bad situation. Most of the people I have talked to think SpaceX is our space program.

    So “incrementally”, I would say the first step is to abandon the dead ends of LEO and Mars (and NewSpace) and focus exclusively on….the Moon.

    • Grand Lunar says:

      LEO is only a dead end if we go no further than it.
      Remember, LEO is half way to anywhere.

      LEO is where the proving ground for cislunar infrastructure begins, as I believe Dr Spudis has mentioned previously.

      There’s a reason the plan is referred to as a network. Whatever is in the Earth-Moon system is part of that network. It is all connected.

    • Nothing wrong with a simple and cheap LEO Way Station for astronaut training and as a crew stop over when departing or returning to LEO, IMO.

      But its really time for NASA to get out of the hyper expensive space laboratory business. If– private space companies– see significant economic value in further microgravity experimentation at LEO then they should go for it by deploying their own microgravity habitats!


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