Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Energy Sultans Of The Moon?

Dennis Overbye, science writer of The New York Times, recently questioned why America is going back to the Moon when Mars is so much more interesting. (Here.) Robert Zubrin, interviewed in US News and World Report, expressed similar thoughts. (Here.) No surprise that.

Common to each opinion is the belief that the Moon is a dead world with nothing to offer whereas Mars has all the resources necessary for human life and is just a much more interesting place to study. Putting aside the false dichotomy of "either-or" thinking in Moon versus Mars debates, there is something to be said for exploring desert wastelands, as oil company executives will tell you.

An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday (here) described the problems with batteries for cellphones, laptops, and other portable electronics. Fuel cells are being touted as the future power source for these devices. But as the article said about fuel cells, "They are costly to make; their electrodes are usually fashioned from platinum, an expensive metal."

Which brings us back to the future direction of human space exploration.

What if Dennis Wingo is right and there are remains of asteriod impacts under the Lunar surface chock full of platinum group metals? In a future fuel cell economy, the people who control all that platinum could be very rich indeed, even if they do live on an arid, lifeless, little world, orbiting the Earth. And then there's all that sunlight falling on the Moon's surface (here) plus the potential use of Helium-3 for future fusion reactors (here).

Arab princes today have lucked into prosperity and political power by living in a desert wasteland on top of all that oil. Will future Lunar energy princes possess similar political power and bring the Moon to life using the money they make providing platinum, fuel, and power, to an energy-hungry Earth?

-tdr

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Comments:
It's good to hear some common sense regarding space exploration.

Although the Mars crowd wants us to begin creating a second Earth now (as traveling to an Earth like world orbiting another star may be a century or two away) they have not pointed to any financial reasons for us visiting the red planet.

I'm just as interested in Mars as the next person, but I also realize that we also need to eat (i.e. work for a living) once we are there.

The Moon holds a lot more potential now than Mars, (so its our current priority) but who says we can never go to the red planet after settling on Mars?
 
Thanks, and I agree with your last point that going back to the Moon now doesn't make the Moon our final destination in space. I think we should view our progress in space through a long historical lens.
 
Hi

Thanks for mentioning me along with Platinum Group Metals!

It is my position that we go to Mars in a sustainable fashion through the use of Lunar resources and lunar industrialization.

Metals and oxygen are processes that we need to develop for ISRU. They go together hand in hand.

Dennis Wingo
 
You're welcome, Dennis. In my mind you are the Lunar Platinum Group Metals guy. I've seen you talk about it at space conferences. I should have flogged your book "Moonrush," available from Amazon.com, in my post. Thanks for reading and commenting.

-tdr
 
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