The Minerals and Their Value
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!
is causing the iron on the Moon to rust?
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...
Transport of sufficient water and oxygen for long stays is presently beyond our technical capability.
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.
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.
When heated in air, thorium
metal turnings ignite and burn brilliantly with a white light.
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.
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.
Global Titanium Data
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
All major minerals of importance are
Copernicus crater, and this imaging is only
scraping the surface!
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
regolith has been stirred up by collisions with meteorites, we'll
probably find He3 down to depths of several meters.
Source - Artemis Society International
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
That gives us gross revenues of $300 billion a year.
(At which point, we will have used up all the helium-3 on the moon and had better start thinking about something else.)
Helium, with an atomic mass of 3, could have huge importance for generating energy on earth.
In 1999 Taylor wrote,
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
Growing concern from Scientists that these rights may be held hostage have been alleviated by a three man North American 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.