from TheLivingMoon Website


The Minerals and Their Value

(funded by the Department of Defense)


It is interesting to note here at the beginning that the project was under the Dept of Defense for what was essentially a 'geological' mission.

After Apollo, the Moon was not specifically revisited for 22 years, until an unmanned spacecraft, Clementine (funded by the Department of Defense), orbited it to conduct mapping studies between February 19 and April 21, 1994, using,

  • UV/Visible, Near IR, and High Resolution Cameras, Lidar (a radar altimeter)

  • a radar-like unit that transmits in the S-band radio frequency (2.293 GHz, or 13.19 cm wavelength)

Among specialized products were more detailed maps of lunar topography (elevations) and global maps of the distribution of several chemical elements, such as iron (Fe) and titanium (Ti), determined by analyzing reflectance variations at 0.75 mm and 0.95 mm, where these elements absorb irradiation.



The Fe map, reproduced below, indicates that, while iron is widespread, its maximum concentrations are in a broad region on the nearside, roughly coincident with the vast lava outpourings into Oceanus Procellarum and several other mare basins.



Now if anyone wanted to build a base on the Moon, or any other permanent facility, the first thing you would want to do is find a ready source of raw materials.


Iron would be something you would need a lot of for structural needs. In the above image you will see the concentration of elemental iron on the surface of the Moon, red being almost 14% in composition. Most of the iron is actually in the form of FeO (reduced iron).


The Clementine results when plotted as FeO are below:


Notice where Copernicus is located in relation to these rich deposits! It is also important to note that FeO is iron oxide, more commonly known as RUST... yes you guessed it you need the presence of OXYGEN to turn iron to iron oxide or rust.


The presence of water speeds up the reaction, but without oxygen... no iron oxide!


So what is causing the iron on the Moon to rust?


Clementine Makes Controversial Discovery

Clementine made a controversial discovery, which, if proved correct, has major implications for humans returning to the Moon.


Its S-band radio unit detected abnormal reflections from the rim of a huge crater (basin) around the lunar South Pole, in areas permanently sheltered from the Sun's rays...

Clementine image of the South polar region, where a large crater lies within the Aitken Basin. Traverses (in green) using a radio signal detected a lower reflectivity zone that may indicate water ice. The red areas are parts of the crater in permanent shadow, which would favor preservation of the ice.

These reflections could be due either to water ice or to some abnormal surface roughness condition. If indeed ice is present in significant quantity, then this precious material (which supplies water needed for life and also oxygen, when broken down by electrolysis) might allow us to establish a manned base on the Moon.


Transport of sufficient water and oxygen for long stays is presently beyond our technical capability.



Follow up Mission - The Lunar Prospector Spacecraft



The Primary Mission

Beginning on January 15, 1998, Lunar Prospector spent one year mapping the entire surface of the Moon from a distance of about 100 kilometers (60 miles).


The data collected during this phase of the mission greatly improved on the quality of data collected previously. Among the early returns from the instruments were those from the Neutron Spectrometer indicating significant amounts of water ice at the lunar poles.

The Impact Experiment
Originally, the mission was to have ended with the spacecraft crashing into the Moon when its fuel ran out. As the mission neared its end, however, the suggestion was made to use the crash as part of an experiment to confirm the existence of water on the Moon.


The spacecraft was successfully directed into a crater near the lunar south pole, thought a likely location for ice deposits, but no water was detected in the resulting impact plume.

SOURCE - Lunar and Planetary Institute (1998)

The first results on Lunar Prospector's detection of ice were released during an exciting press conference, held on March 5, 1998.


Around both poles, the neutron spectrometer has indeed detected neutrons, released from hydrogen by natural cosmic ray bombardment of water ice in craters with sheltered shadow zones.


The drop in neutrons emanating from the Moon is clearly maximal around the poles as seen in this plot.


The initial estimate of the amount, to be determined more accurately with later observations, is 30 to 300 million metric tons (recent thinking has raised the upper limit to perhaps as high as 3 billion tons).


If melted, this larger number would fill a "lake" 10 square kilometers in area (3.1 x 3.1 km) to a depth of 10 meters. Surprisingly, the North Pole region contains about 50% more ice than its southern counterpart. The source of the water ice is probably residues from cometary bodies that impacted the polar regions, forming craters but allowing much of the comet mass to survive embedded in the target.


The implications are encouraging for future exploration of the Moon, to the extent that we can establish and occupy a manned base facility over extended time because of the availability of vital water (for consumption and as a source of hydrogen, suitable as a fuel). However, landing in polar regions is technically more difficult but doable.


The dream of a permanent observation post on our satellite is now much more feasible.



Thorium Deposits

Information on the distribution of radioactivity on the lunar surface was one goal of Lunar Prospector.


This map shows that the element thorium is highest on the front side of the Moon, mainly in the highlands south of Mare Imbrium. The correspondence with the Imbrium Basin suggests that the basaltic lavas that filled it were enriched in Th.


Note that corresponding highland surfaces on the far-side are lower.


Again you will notice that the richest deposits are in the vicinity of Copernicus Crater.

Thorium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Th and atomic number 90. As a naturally occurring, slightly radioactive metal, it has been considered as an alternative nuclear fuel to uranium.

When pure, thorium is a silvery white metal that retains its lustre for several months. However, when it is contaminated with the oxide, thorium slowly tarnishes in air, becoming grey and eventually black. Thorium dioxide (ThO2), also called thoria, has one of the highest melting points of all oxides (3300°C).


When heated in air, thorium metal turnings ignite and burn brilliantly with a white light.

Thorium as a nuclear fuel
Thorium, as well as uranium and plutonium, can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor.


Although not fissile itself, 232Th will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (233U), which is fissile.


Hence, like 238U, it is fertile. In one significant respect 233U is better than the other two fissile isotopes used for nuclear fuel, 235U and plutonium-239 (239Pu), because of its higher neutron yield per neutron absorbed.

Source - Wikipedia



Apollo 17 - Orange Soil


These orange glass spheres and fragments are the finest particles ever brought back from the Moon.


The particles range in size from 20 to 45 microns. The orange soil was brought back from the Taurus-Littrow landing site by the Apollo 17 crewmen. Scientist-Astronaut Harrison J. Schmitt discovered the orange soil at Shorty Crater.


The orange particles, which are intermixed with black and black-speckled grains, are about the same size as the particles that compose silt on Earth. Chemical analysis of the orange soil material has show the sample to be similar to some of the samples brought back from the Apollo 11 (Sea of Tranquility) site several hundred miles to the southwest.


Like those samples, it is rich in titanium (8%) and iron oxide (22%). But unlike the Apollo 11 samples, the orange soil is unexplainably rich in zinc.


The orange soil is probably of volcanic origin and not the product of meteorite impact.




Clementine - Titanium Deposits



Global Titanium Data
Image derived from the Clementine global color data (in 415-nanometer and 750-nanometer wavelengths) showing the concentration of titanium in the soils of the lunar surface.


The highlands are very low in titanium, while the maria display many units of widely varying titanium content.


Most of the very high titanium mare basalts (first discovered in the samples returned by Apollo 11) are found in Mare Tranquillitatis and parts of Oceanus Procellarum. See Blewett et al. (1997) for details on this method of titanium mapping.

Noticing a pattern yet?


All major minerals of importance are concentrated around Copernicus crater, and this imaging is only scraping the surface!


Helium 3

Some He3 is available on Earth. It is a by-product of the maintenance of nuclear weapons, which would supply us with about 300 kg of He3 (Helium-3) and could continue to produce about 15 kg per year.


The total supply in the U.S. strategic reserves of helium is about 29 kg, and another 187 kg is mixed up with the natural gas we have stored; these sources are not renewable at any significant rate.

2004 Artemis Society International

In their 1988 paper, Kulcinski, et al. (see ref note below), estimate a total of 1,100,000 metric tonnes of He3 have been deposited by the solar wind in the lunar regolith.


Since the regolith has been stirred up by collisions with meteorites, we'll probably find He3 down to depths of several meters.

The highest concentrations are in the lunar maria; about half the He3 is deposited in the 20% of the lunar surface covered by the maria.

Source - Artemis Society International

That amount of He3 would produce approximately 20,000 terra-watt years of thermal energy, about 10 times the amount if we burned all the fossil fuels on Earth. without the pollution.


Another way to state it, 25 tons would power the United States for 1 year, which is about the maximum size of the payload of a Space

The Payoff
A guess is the best we can do. Let's suppose that by the time we're slinging tanks of He3 off the moon, the world-wide demand is 100 tonnes of the stuff a year, and people are happy to pay $3 billion per tonne.


That gives us gross revenues of $300 billion a year.

To put that number in perspective: Ignoring the cost of money and taxes and whatnot, that rate of income would launch a moon shot like our reference mission every day for the next 10,000 years.


(At which point, we will have used up all the helium-3 on the moon and had better start thinking about something else.)

Source - Artemis Society International



There’s Helium-3 in them there Moon hills!
by Guy Cramer

Dr. Larry Taylor director of UT’s Planetary Geosciences Institute in Knoxville says,

“The moon is an orbiting space station. All the things you might need for planetary travel are there - hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and other essentials.


You can find ways to process or mine the moon and its soil, but there’s a lot of stuff up there we could use down here too. The abundance of helium on the moon represents 'the Persian Gulf of energy in the 21st century'.”

Helium, with an atomic mass of 3, could have huge importance for generating energy on earth.


In 1999 Taylor wrote,

“There is more than 100 times more energy in the helium-3 on the moon than in all the economically recoverable coal, oil, and natural gas on earth.”

Scientists estimate there are about 1 million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years. The He3 is mainly imbedded in an ore called ilmenite.

A space vehicle with a payload bay the size of a space shuttle could bring back enough helium-3 to generate the electricity to satisfy the United States’ needs for a full year.

Particles of hydrogen and helium in the solar wind that strikes the moon become embedded in the rocks and soil. This doesn’t happen on the earth because our atmosphere and our magnetic field shield our planet from these solar particles.

It has been estimated that helium 3 would have a cash value of $5.7 billion a ton in terms of its current energy equivalent to oil at <$40 per barrel oil.

However, a loophole in Space Law allows individuals and companies to hold Mineral Rights on the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies.


Growing concern from Scientists that these rights may be held hostage have been alleviated by a three man North American team:

  • Dr. Joseph Resnick

  • Dr. Timothy R. O'Neill

  • Guy Cramer (ROC-Resnick/O'Neill/Cramer team),

...who have acquired the mineral rights for 95% of the side of the moon that faces Earth, the polar regions and 50% of the far side of the moon.