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    Discovery Channel - Mining the Moon
    English | 00:43:57 | H264 | 1280x720 | 25.00fps 3688 Kbps | AC3 128 Kbps 48.0khz | 1.13GB
    Genre: Documentary
    The Scoop: We are told that one of the key reasons to set up a lunar base is to mine the moon for its abundance of natural resources, but is this realistic? In some ways yes, but there's a lot of economics and politics to wade through first. Planetary geologists speculate that the moon's polar craters may hold billions of tons of hydrogen, perhaps even in the form of water ice. Intriguing evidence returned by the Lunar Prospector and the Clementine probes in the 1990s seemed to support this idea. The latest raft of lunar missions, including Chandrayaan-1 and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, may confirm it. Prospecting could then determine the quantity, quality and accessibility of the hydrogen. Discovering rich concentrations of hydrogen on the moon would open up a universe of possibilities -- literally. Rocket fuels and consumables that now cost an average of $10,000 per kilogram to loft could instead be produced on the moon much more cheaply. For the first time, access to space would be truly economical. At last, people would be able to begin new ventures, including space tourism, space-debris cleanup, satellite refueling and interplanetary voyages.
    Lunar prospecting will cost a lot of money -- perhaps $20 billion over a decade. Rovers would have to descend into the polar craters to sample the deposits and test for ice, and then move on to other spots to form an overall map, much as wildcatters do every day in oil fields. At the moment, no country seems eager to foot the bill. But where governments fail to act on a vitally important opportunity, the private sector can and should step in. Two years ago, I and a group of like-minded businessmen, expeditionary explorers, and space-systems managers and engineers formed the Shackleton Energy Co. in Del Valle, Texas, to conduct lunar prospecting. Should we find significant reserves of ice, we would then establish a network of refueling service stations in low Earth orbit and on the moon to process and provide fuel and consumables? Like modern highway service stations, these celestial stations would be able to refuel space vehicles of all kinds and would be positioned at key transportation nodes; an obvious spot would be near the International Space Station.
    Such stations would radically change the way nearly every space system is designed. No longer would you have to carry your fuel and water into orbit with you. Entirely new classes of space vehicles would become possible, ones that operate only at and beyond low Earth orbit, such as vehicles for orbital transfer and satellite repair. Today launch systems must be designed to withstand the punishing effects of high-speed atmospheric drag, pressure, vibration and heating that occur on the way to space. Protecting the rocket and its payload adds enormously to launch costs. But a vehicle that is designed from the start to operate only in space -- say, between low Earth orbit and the moon -- is not bound by the same design rules. We would also be able to clear up the ever-growing space debris problem. There would be plenty of fuel for maneuvering satellites and other spacecraft to avoid debris, and you could also deploy cleanup vehicles to remove obsolete materials from orbit. Within a decade or two, we would soon see the dawn of a new age of space exploration, space tourism and space business ventures.
    So where exactly is the raw material, and how will we retrieve it? The most likely place to look is within the regolith -- the loose surface material -- at the bottom of lunar craters, such as Shackleton Crater at the moon's south pole. The cold interior of this crater may act as a trap that captures volatiles like water and hydrogen, which scientists believe may have been shed by comets and asteroids that collided with the moon. In the 1990s, the Lunar Prospector spacecraft sensed unexpectedly high amounts of hydrogen in the polar regions, which may indicate the presence of water ice. NASA has considered Shackleton Crater as the site for the first lunar outpost under its Constellation program, which envisions returning astronauts to the moon by 2020. Assuming the ice exists and can be extracted, our plan calls for establishing a fuel-processing operation on the lunar surface. The first step would be to melt the ice and purify the water. Next, we would electrolyze the water into gaseous hydrogen and oxygen, and then condense the gases into liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and also process them into hydrogen peroxide, all of which could be used as rocket fuels. Should other volatiles like ammonia or methane be discovered, they too would be processed into fuel, fertilizer and other useful products.

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