Science Sunday: Private Companies Seek to Mine the Moon!

Can private companies mine the moon?

I came across this gem of a news article from Sen.com, in which the reporter outlines the aims of multiple private companies in the race to mine elements from the moon. Texas-Based Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is one of the first to express this interest, and they are creating a plan to separate the ice from the poles of the moon in order to create a propellent for spacecraft. There are an estimated 1.6 Billion tons of Water Ice on the moon, and the Shackleton company will use a combination of human and robotic miners to secure the payload, after which they plan to sell off the propellent as an after-product in a Low-Earth Orbit gas station of sorts. For years, scientists have said that part of the problem with a Mars mission is the return trip. If our spacecraft can refuel after hitting Low-Earth Orbit, they would have plenty for the trip home.

Ideas like this one inspired the premise of my scifi series, The Corsair Uprising, in which an asteroid mining company gains control over the precious metal market and hits the highest valuation of any company in existence. In the story, Vesta Corporation has control over political offices and diplomats and they have their own mafia-style enforcers to do their bidding. In the short term, meaning the next 50 years, I think there are a lot of great benefits to mining the moon as well as asteroids and eventually Mars. However, in the long term, meaning 100+ years, I think there’s cause for concern. Let me explain why.

Here’s an infographic (not the best I acknowledge) but an effective enough representation of when we will run out of certain minerals and metals on the Earth. If these predictions are even semi-accurate, then we will need to find other places to find these minerals and metals or we’ll have to drastically change what and how we produce. It is this kind of situation that leads to desperate acts. In my series, Vesta Corporation was the only company with the technology to deliver these precious metals at first, and so they held a monopoly on the market. Eventually other companies would join in, but they were all, in actuality, arms of the same company. Undoubtedly we will need to search for new sources of metals and minerals someplace other than Earth in the next 100-200 years, and I think we should be hesitant when it comes to the companies involved.

Right now, the Sen.com article mentions a few private companies vying for the same goal of mining on the moon. But who owns the moon? I think we as a world need to come together at some sort of summit and discuss exactly how this is going to pan out. Is it going to be the Wild West where possession is everything? Will different space-faring countries stake claims? Can a company legally sell something that they have no right to have? Does the company own the land on the moon or the country they represent? My head is brimming with questions on the ethics of space travel and of ownership of extraterrestrial bodies of land. The American Flag sits atop the Moon. Does that make it ours? It’s a question for far brighter minds than mine. I wonder what Neil Degrasse Tyson would say?

The good news is, if you want to buy a plot of land on Mars, look no further. (Disclaimer: This is B.S. Do not waste your money on this).

What do you think of mining the moon’s Helium, Oxygen, and other materials? What do you think of claims of ownership by corporations on the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else?

To find my books regarding the subject of extraterrestrial mining, find me on Amazon.

Organic Compounds Found on Mars!

Organic Compounds Found on Mars!

That’s right, the building blocks of life have been found on Mars.  Time will tell if these compounds are indigenous to Mars or if they came from meteorites.  If it’s the former, that’s really exciting news.  Still, even if there are organics on Mars, the environment is not well-suited to supporting those compounds.

To me, and I’m just spit-balling here, it seems increasingly likely that Mars used to be capable of supporting life but has since lost that ability with a thinning atmosphere that allows cosmic rays to penetrate and destroy organic compounds.  Whether or not intelligent life existed, I don’t know.  Maybe not.  Regardless, it’s still fun to think about.

Mars features tangentially in my new novel The Azure Key.  I’m hard at work on the second installment, but later this year I plan to put out the first in a related series that deals directly with the Red Planet.  Mars has fascinated me since I was a child, when was convinced I would be an astronaut.  The series I’m planning will use Mars as a setting but it will be very much character-driven.  That said, I still want to explore possibilities such as organic compounds on Mars and the possibilities the Red Planet holds for the human race in the future.  If you’re also interested in these kinds of questions, I’d encourage you to pick up my latest novel, The Corsair Uprising #1: The Azure Key.

Source: Discovery News. 12/16/14.  Irene Klotz. http://news.discovery.com/space/wait-theres-more-curiosity-confirms-organics-on-mars-141216.htm?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=DNewsSocial

 

Future Space Colonies

I came across an interesting article today regarding the location of our future colonies around the solar system.  In it, the author argues that we should look somewhere besides mars for our future colonies due to proximity and other factors.  He suggested that we could paraterraform Mars or the moon (create a dome and create Earth-Like conditions within instead of trying to do so to the entire planet).  I think it would be a great idea to do this on the moon first for a proof-of-concept as well as to mine Helium-3, which could provide us with better rocket fuel to make our trips to Mars faster and easier.  This would make a Mars colony much cheaper to achieve.

Number of colonists is also an issue, as to create the right conditions for genetic diversity to prevent certain disorders and create the best possible survival rates, we would need a minimum of 10,000 colonists, probably more like 40,000 and up.  Getting that many people to the Moon or Mars and being able to house and feed them would be a hefty task.  Elon Musk has said he plans to make a Mars colony with 80,000 people in a matter of decades.  Whether or not this is feasible, we’ll see.  Still, I think it’s a noble task to try.  A number of events could occur which threaten the Earth and the people living on it.  Asteroids, Nuclear War, and the reversing of our magnetic poles which would leave us temporarily vulnerable to solar storms (Something very important now during our current solar storm) are just a few of the many possibilities that could end us.  I’m still banking on Zombie Apocalypse.

Wouldn’t it be an ease on everyone’s mind if the human race could life on in a self-sufficient society even if the Earth were destroyed or uninhabitable?  I think simply the amount of scientific discoveries and the bounds our technology would take just to make these colonies viable would have an immeasurable impact on the Earth.  Most people don’t realize how many discoveries and inventions can be attributed to the space program already, and in reality, the program is still in its infancy.  Take a look…you might be surprised.