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Regolith: Conjuring breatheable air

Soon romantic silence will be ended on Luna: After Space -Exotic China Japan also maps out moon plans, US-researchers have discovered an exclusive residential area on the terrestrial trabant, and NASA is already producing air and water made of lunar-dust.

Draft of a manned NASA-Moon base in the  21. Century
Picture by NASA

At the latest 2020 a manned American space mission should explore the moon again. That was surprisingly announced by US-President Bush one and a half years ago. A venturous plan, according to many experts, for it could take decades, to lead the actual space technique with its Routine-Jumpers to the space station ISS in 400 kilometers height again to that level, which was accessible during the laborious Apollo-missions in the 70s to the just 400.000 Kilometers far away moon.

Others didn’t take Bush’s announcement seriously and assumed it would be an attempt to distract from the disaster in Iraq. In reality NASA already makes very concrete plans, to after more than 32 years possibly being able to ram the star spangled banner again into the lunar-dust before all other nations. Fact is that since long ago the USA and Russia are not the only ones anymore regarding space conquests. Beside the Europeans, the Chinese lately proved so with their first manned spaceflight. And a few days ago the Japanese space agency JAXA has also announced, one plans to create a research station and would like to construct a space plane in the next two decades, which transports people to the moon.

Point of view of a Regolith-working-manufactory on the moon – according to a NASA-Illustrator
Picture by NASA

If one wants to win the nowadays again so prestigious footrace to the moon it will demand some effort to be invested from the world power USA. How concrete America is working on ideas for a colonization on Luna, shows a modern Alchemist-contest, which the space research institute of Florida now brought into being with the title "MoonROx": 250.000 Dollar for the one who is able to produce five kilos oxygen from lunar-dust – expert groups call it "Regolith" – in eight hours with a maximal 25 kilos heavy machine until June 1 2008.

Oxygen made of fine grey sand? What sounds impossible like many a "Gold formula" in the Middle Ages, is doable if getting closer into the matter. Because from the inconspicuous dust, where Neil Armstrong left his footraces as a first human being with his Moon boots in 1969, one can even gain water and fuel theoretically:

Since billions of years solar wind, cosmic radiation and countless tiny meteorites which are not stopped by a protective atmosphere (like on earth) drub on the moon surface. After some time stone chippings are being shut to dust, and the solar wind leaves elements like oxygen, helium, carbon and nitrogen, which merge in the meters thick Regolith-layer and with the help of other cosmic radiances also supports other elements to emerge. Helium-3 which doesn’t exist in the natural surroundings here, but is found in great quantities there (two Protons, one Neutron) would be an ideal fuel for an advanced nuclear fusion reactor, running exclusively with oxygen, like the one, that should be build in France now for the first time.

Draft of an Oxygen-Manufactory on the base of  Regolith
Picture by NASA

This Regolith is an inconspicuous, but yet very rich resource, one can assume. And it is only a question of the right, efficient technology, that one doesn’t have to bring along outrageously expensive fundamentals like air, water, and fuel from the earth, but is able to produce it on site out of the resources found.

Whilst NASA is busy working out plans for the first moon mine, it is now evident, where the first moon base is meant to be built: US-Astronomer Ben Bussey has discovered hilltops on the edge of a crater on the moon North Pole, which are sunny located around the clock, regardless of the moon-summer or moon-winter time, because of the special axial position of the moon.

However, although this would be the most expensive spot for property speculators on the moon so far, one should think twice building a luxury moon villa with panorama view to the earth: Minus 50 Degrees is the average temperature on these exclusive panorama view hills. Still snug compared to the -180 to +100 Degrees, which an air conditioning system on the moon equator would have to balance. Anyway scientists are happy regarding the discovery a Beverly Hills on the verge of the Peary Crater. – Because not only they, but also their research instruments would have a significant higher life-span there.

Moon-Greenhouse as big as a crater on the North Pole of the Earth-Trabant
Picture by NASA

At the latest when the first manned moon bases with mansion site are being built, one would obviously have to find a solution for the dubious businesses of the American Dennis Hope. He let himself be put into the land registry of San Francisco in 1980 as the owner of the moon, due to a loophole in the law. Meanwhile he is a millionaire because of the sales of moon properties in the Internet. If the purchasers can really make their rights clear, is doubtful.

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© A report by Tobias Micke (05-06-05) – Contact