NewSpace 2010: Making Money Mining the Moon

Closing the Lunar Business Case

Rick Tumlinson (moderator) – Space Frontier Foundation, Orbital Outfitters
Wendell Mendell – NASA Planetary Scientist
Bruce Pittman – NASA Ames Space Portal
Dennis Wingo – Skycorp, Inc., Orbital Recovery


— The arrival of the high net worth individual in the 1990s reminds Wendell of Asimov’s foundation series
— NASA plan in 1982 had a plan for space transport vehicles, orbital transport vehicles — FedEx in space. Astronauts would then be FedEx drivers.
— That was the NASA plan to be in place in 1999
— Majority of the mass to the moon is LOX. Fuel station on moon would cut mass to LEO to half
— mass to LEO is a surrogate to cost
— Hugh Davis demonstrated a scenario proving that the propellant to LEO was a great business
— Wendell co developer of term in-situ resource utilization (ISRU)
— Wendell wanted to bring CEOs from private companies to the lunar table with George Kuzmetski
— Investors can’t wait for the long return of investment. Business plan needs to have plateaus so that the business plan has products every 4 years so investors can bootstrap over 20 years.
— This assumes an investor who has a desire to make a lot of money. But in the 1990s a bunch of investors appeared all at once and using resources gained from other areas and invested into space.
— These guys are from the Apollo generation – this is the Apollo generation
— Now the momentum has shifted to where the government is not the only conceivable agent, but now this is no longer the case
— Bob Bigelow wants to go to the moon
— Elon Musk heading to Mars
— Government and private sector can work together in ways neither can do alone
— Commercial Lunar Focus Group
— Meeting at LEAG meeting in September in Washington
— 600m tonnes of water ice on north pole of the moon
— Who’s going to be the first trillionaire who figures out what to do with that
— Elon Musk has done a great job of bringing Silicon Valley to space
— Dennis just read final report from survey program
— 1/3 craters are from metallic asteroids
— Billions of tonnes of metals
— Surveyor coming in at 15km and noticed much higher reflectivity in craters
— Google Lunar X Prize has landing radar; improve the radar, have high powered radar, land in crater and discover a 50m metallic rock
— Wendell thinks 600m tons of water is a lot of bull. Exploration geophysicisits cannot see those lunar geophysical features, though new processes discovered make this unsure. Wendell still thinks the evidence is not there.
— LRO advanced neutron detector is giving contradictions to Lunar Prospector data
— Results from LEND are not showing up in same way as Lunar Prospector
— Water resources not a slam dunk yet
— 40%+ of the lunar surface is oxygen
— Ed McCullough knows all the 27 ways to extract oxygen
— A billion dollars profit immediately
— Markets – SDI, SPS, fuel depots
— Some business architectures now might make economic sense and involve the moon in that story
— Moon reaches the giggle point for business plans
— NASA needs to get involved to break that Catch 22
— the systems analysis is about the whole earth moon complex, how you move through it, how you leverage it and how you design for it
— To build a large facility on the earth you need to go to the developers and industry, not just NASA
— Space is an attractant; political and economic influencers could be drawn into this
— Space Portals concept for lunar research park
— Len Harper’s idea
— long-term unifying project
— State of Hawaii holding conference: Next Giant Leap Building Sustainable Settlements
— need to get miners, civil engineers and mining companies involved in this effort