Are there constuction or fuel materials on the Moon?

No, not as in a lunar Home Depot. But are there known metal deposits on (in) the Moon? Any other naturally occurring materials that we could use to build stuff (on the Moon or in space).

Also, is there water on the Moon? I assume that could be split back into H and O, and used as a fuel. Any other substance known to be on the Moon that could be used as fuel?

Last I heard, the answer to all of the above is no. Tho’ we haven’t had teams of geologists scouring the lunar surface, so who knows what might turn up?

Still, you can’t build a moon base using materials that might be there, so at first we’d have to haul everything up from Earth.

A westsider would know all about barren landscapes, such as the surface of the moon or Redford, so I’ll accept your answer. :slight_smile:
(Royal Oak resident here.)

The layer of moondust that covers most of the surfave has a lot of silicon and meteoritic iron and steel in it.

And, since there is no atmosphere, a solar furnace could be used to smelt these materials quickly & cheaply.

The mirrors of the furnace could be made of thin, foldable Mylar mirror sheets, as there is no wind or rain to damage the mirrors.

If a non-water fluid chemical could be found on the Moon that will become steam quickly, it could be used to run a solar-powered turbine for generating electricity.

In all likelyhood, other materials exist on the Moon in abundence, we just haven’t found them yet.

There is a fair bit of oxygen trapped in lunar rocks. You need to melt the rocks to liberate it but once you do all you then need is a way to heat it. Once that gets done you’ve got a rocket propellant.

Of course it means you need an impressive onboard power supply to heat the gas but propellant is there.

As to materials there is a fair bit of Si, Al and Ti in the mares. It’s a lot like Earth’s crust. However there hasn’t been any hydrological activity to help create veins of ores. On the upside the place has been nicely pounded for eons so it’s pre-ground for Bosda’s plan.

For here

There are craters at the north pole of the moon whose bottoms are never touched by sunlight. There is apparantly ice in these craters, although there are conflicting indications of just how much. This could probably be used as a source of water for a lunar base.

The lunar soil contains helium-3, which can be used as a fusion fuel when and if we develop working fusion power plants.

Titanium is the ninth most abundant element in the earth’s crust. Titanium dioxide gets used by the shirtload on earth as the white pigment in paint. Silicon and oxygen are the components of sand.

Don’t buy shares in a lunar Ti/Si/O mining venture. :wink:

I believe there has been some talk of using lunar soil/rocks to make concrete for construction of permanent structures, but I’m not sure how water (a usu. necessary element in such construction) figures into it.

The big thing they’ve been tagging onto the benefits of such a moonbase is that we could mine Helium-3 from the soil “for use as fuel on earth.” Um, yes, well, that is, if we ever actually manage to make a workable fusion reactor, which seems about as far off as a manned mission to Mars.

Oxygen is fine stuff, but for successful propulsion, don’t you also need something to oxidize?

Not really. Think of a balloon. Open the end and the air rushes out pushing the balloon around the room. All you need a propellant. On Earth, we burn oxygen and something else to produce a heated and therefore energetic exhaust. In space and on the Moon (and even Mars I would imagine) you could pass a gas over/through a reactor core where it could be heated and then exhausted like a typical rocket fuel. I’m suggesting a reactor core because it is capable of providing tremendous heat/energy to the gas.

If you want an another example, take a look at ion engines where they electrically accelerate xenon ions as a propellant.

What are we using the oxygen propellant for? For space travel (perfectly fine), or for escaping lunar gravity? Could it provide enough thrust for the latter?

I would guess not, but if you’re on the moon a rail launcher is likely a better bet anyway.

If the reactor’s core reaches say 1000 C (~1270 K) the Vmean for oxygen would be
Vmean = Sqrt(8RT/pi*M) ~ 1300 m/s.

Now if Vf = Vesc (2380 m/s) = Vmean*ln(Minitial/Mfinal)

ln(Mi/Mf) = 1.83 so Mfinal = .16 Minital so the fuel would make up 84% of the ships mass initially.

Not so hot, but this is a bunch of scribbles on a graph pad. Perhaps you could use it to hop from remote site to remote site. That would avoid needing to reach Vesc. Still I’ve likely forgotten a number of things (say gravity:) ) and the possibility of using a multi-stage rocket. However, if you’re melting out all this ore you are going have a massive surplus of oxygen. Shame to waste it.

Anyone who’s interested in a detailed discussion of the resources available on the Moon would do well to read John S. Lewis’s book Mining the Sky. He goes into detail about what makes up the regolith, how the helium-3 got there, how to extract the oxygen, and so on.

Yes, but in that case the energy is being supplied by the reactor, not the gas. I don’t believe this would qualify as using the oxygen for fuel, as specified in the OP.

Why not? Rockets require propellant. On Earth we do it with chemical reactions using oxidizers. We could just as easily use a reactor core and heat a propellant. The requirement to burn something doesn’t necessarily exist when we discuss the Moon or space.

I guess it’s a question on semantics. In space or on the Moon oxygen alone could provide a propellant to spacecraft.

My point is that the OP asked about fuel obtainable on the moon.
I agree the oxygen could be used as a propellant, but in your example the fuel is in the reactor.

Ah, I see what you mean now, but I think we’re splitting hairs. :slight_smile:

Since I was unclear (or ‘clear’ in an incorrect way!), both of you are correct, I suppose. :wink: It seems to me that it would be easier to transport a nuclear reactor to the Moon (using fuel from Earth, though rather compact fuel) to create propellant on the Moon. I suppose an added bonus of doing so would the reduced fuel costs of launching from the moon.

From this NASA page:


Oxygen 40%
Silicon 19.2%
Iron 14.3%
Calcium 8.0%
Aluminum 5.6%
Magnesium 4.5%

I have the linked testimony in a book, and it also lists 5.9% titanium, which was omitted from the web page for some reason.


Now that I look at the materials available nothing seems workable, at least not initially. To build a habitat you’d need to send up a solar furnace, regolith collectors, a means to separate the various materials/metals and then a fabrication plant. All would be big heavy things that would cost a lot to launch.

Could we simply use rock? I mean since we’re melting the regolith and collecting oxygen could we not then simply pour the molten rock into moulds of 1’x’1x3’? That would give us blocks about 240 kg in mass that could be used like bricks. We’re going to have to burry our base to avoid radiation and micro meteorites. The blocks could be built under compression with truck loads of dirt piled on top.

Anyone have any cites for the structural strength of “cast rock” or even typical limestone or feldspar rocks?