17 votes

Trump order encourages US to mine the moon

41 comments

  1. [37]
    dubteedub
    Link
    Well, I guess future generations didn't really need a moon anyway, it's not like it serves any essential function for our way of life. I am sure opening up the moon or apparently mars even to...

    “Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer space,” the order states, noting that the US had never signed a 1979 agreement known as the moon treaty. This agreement stipulates that any activities in space should conform to international law. In 2015, the US Congress passed a law explicitly allowing American companies to use resources from the moon and asteroids.

    According to Trump’s executive order, the US will object to any attempt to use international law to hinder its efforts to remove chunks of the moon or, should the opportunity arise, additional mining of Mars and “other celestial bodies”.

    Well, I guess future generations didn't really need a moon anyway, it's not like it serves any essential function for our way of life. I am sure opening up the moon or apparently mars even to mining will not lead to any catastrophic consequences in our future.

    It is unclear whether the president actually thinks the moon is a part of Mars but the two are in fact quite far apart – the moon, which orbits Earth, is around 238,000 miles away from our planet while Mars, which is itself a planet, is an average of 140m miles away from Earth.

    I hate everything about this.

    19 votes
    1. [32]
      Loire
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Far be it for me to defend any action by Trump but why are you guys panicked that mineral exploration of the moon means literal removal of the moon? We've been mining the Earth, extensively, for...

      Far be it for me to defend any action by Trump but why are you guys panicked that mineral exploration of the moon means literal removal of the moon? We've been mining the Earth, extensively, for millenia and it is still "here".

      I promise you the minimal amount of helium-3 in the regolith and possible titanium in the Anorthsite isn't going to require wholesale dismemberment of the moon.

      23 votes
      1. [31]
        dubteedub
        Link Parent
        My concern is the fact that mining in the United States, particularly coal mining, has been hugely destructive to the environment. If companies are willing to destroy the Appalachia for the sake...

        My concern is the fact that mining in the United States, particularly coal mining, has been hugely destructive to the environment. If companies are willing to destroy the Appalachia for the sake of a bit of coal, I have no faith on them engaging in good business practices when they are on an entirely different planet with even less accountability.

        How would mining on the moon even be regulated? Would it just be a free for all for companies to do what they want?

        What about issues of miner safety? Companies already view them as an expendable resource as it is. What protections would be put in place if they are mining on the moon?

        I promise you the minimal amount of helium-3 in the regolith and possible titanium in the Anorthsite isn't going to require wholesale dismemberment of the moon.

        Seems like there is plenty of silicon, which makes up 20% of moon dirt. Apparently about 8% of the moon's dirt is also titanium.

        I mean, how much gold was in California and other areas during the gold rush? Despite only a few people profiting exorbitantly from it, there was a rush of hundreds of thousands of prospectors. If we open up the moon to mining, I could certainly envision a rush of prospecting companies flooding the rock to stake a claim.

        9 votes
        1. [9]
          JakeTheDog
          Link Parent
          I agree with you there, it's impossible not to. But what kind of environment would be damaged by mining the moon? It's not like we have the capacity to mine the moon to the point where it no...

          hugely destructive to the environment.

          I agree with you there, it's impossible not to. But what kind of environment would be damaged by mining the moon? It's not like we have the capacity to mine the moon to the point where it no longer has a gravitational effect on Earth.

          17 votes
          1. [8]
            dubteedub
            Link Parent
            I think that is exactly my point. I think most companies will think, "hey it's just the moon, it is not like anyone lives here, who cares if we just blow up this huge chunk of it to get some of...

            I think that is exactly my point. I think most companies will think, "hey it's just the moon, it is not like anyone lives here, who cares if we just blow up this huge chunk of it to get some of that sweet rare metals way down there?" Corporations already don't give a fuck about the environment in our own backyards. I assume they will have even less regard in this case.

            My issue is destroying the natural beauty of the moon that has remained intact for millenia.

            12 votes
            1. [7]
              JakeTheDog
              Link Parent
              Okay, there is a MASSIVE difference between mining as it is done and what you are suggesting. "Blowing up" the moon is on the same level as an act of war against the entire planet. That's not how...

              who cares if we just blow up this huge chunk of it to get some of that sweet rare metals way down there?

              Okay, there is a MASSIVE difference between mining as it is done and what you are suggesting. "Blowing up" the moon is on the same level as an act of war against the entire planet. That's not how mining works. If not for ethical reasons then for pragmatism and economics (which are generally the drivers of capitalism). In you scenario, chances are that chunks of the moon would fall down to earth and cause a catastrophe. Also, that kind of act would require untold resources, essentially a nuclear arsenal.

              You appear to be mistaking reality for a dystopian fantasy. A part of me wishes what you describe would be possible.

              9 votes
              1. [6]
                dubteedub
                Link Parent
                I mean, I am exaggerating slightly, but strip mining is absolutely a thing and destroys the natural environment, leveling mountains and other landmasses. I would not be surprised if they went with...

                "Blowing up" the moon is on the same level as an act of war against the entire planet. That's not how mining works.

                I mean, I am exaggerating slightly, but strip mining is absolutely a thing and destroys the natural environment, leveling mountains and other landmasses. I would not be surprised if they went with aggressive mining operations like that that fundamentally altered the face of the moon.

                7 votes
                1. [5]
                  JakeTheDog
                  Link Parent
                  You're not exaggerating slightly, what you were describing earlier was catastrophic, on the scale of changing tidal forces. And even if it was only slight, you can't use hyperbole to make a point...

                  You're not exaggerating slightly, what you were describing earlier was catastrophic, on the scale of changing tidal forces. And even if it was only slight, you can't use hyperbole to make a point because that fundamentally changes the argument.

                  To play devils advocate, lets say that sure, we see a couple extra dimples that weren't there before. The aesthetic cost is inconsequential compared to the wealth and prosperity it will bring to our civilization AND for the protection of the environment (and human rights) here on Earth, since Earth mining will be pointless compared to extraterrestrial mining.

                  I'm curious how you balance the ethics of aesthetic appreciation (if we take your only "slightly exaggerated" scenario instead of catastrophic ) vs human prosperity, rights and environmental protection.

                  7 votes
                  1. screenbeard
                    Link Parent
                    This would be great if we weren't on a thread for an article about the US deciding it's up for grabs to whoever gets there first, the opposite of bringing wealth and prosperity to our...

                    The aesthetic cost is inconsequential compared to the wealth and prosperity it will bring to our civilization

                    This would be great if we weren't on a thread for an article about the US deciding it's up for grabs to whoever gets there first, the opposite of bringing wealth and prosperity to our civilization. it's taking our current dubious practices with us into space. The only wealth and prosperity will be for the rich companies who already have enough wealth and prosperity to afford to beat the rest of the world to it

                    8 votes
                  2. [3]
                    dubteedub
                    Link Parent
                    I was not the one making that argument. I just was half-jokingly saying potentially catastrophic consequences. It was @twisterghost who talked about tides and their comment was a reference to a...

                    what you were describing earlier was catastrophic, on the scale of changing tidal forces.

                    I was not the one making that argument. I just was half-jokingly saying potentially catastrophic consequences. It was @twisterghost who talked about tides and their comment was a reference to a joke about shareholder value.

                    To play devils advocate, lets say that sure, we see a couple extra dimples that weren't there before. The aesthetic cost is inconsequential compared to the wealth and prosperity it will bring to our civilization

                    Is it? It is not like mining our natural resources on Earth has provided some massive economic boost to the global population. It has just benefited first world countries by giving us some shinier electronics and a slightly better quality of life and made an extremely small few number of individuals extraordinarily wealthy.

                    I think that reshaping / destroying the face of the moon as it has been known for billions of years to be a pretty devastating development, especially if it just provides some more extremely limited resources and helps the bottom line of a few companies.

                    AND for the protection of the environment (and human rights) here on Earth, since Earth mining will be pointless compared to extraterrestrial mining.

                    Do you really think that extraterrestrial mining would just put an end to resource extraction on earth? Why would any mining companies exploiting the global poor in third world countries just give that up because some companies have started doing the same on the moon?

                    I'm curious how you balance the ethics of aesthetic appreciation (if we take your only "slightly exaggerated" scenario instead of catastrophic ) vs human prosperity, rights and environmental protection.

                    I think we fundamentally disagree in that I believe there is tremendous intrinsic value in preserving the moon as it has existed for millenia. Human beings have looked up at the same moon for as long as we have been a species. I think preserving that is invaluable.

                    4 votes
                    1. [2]
                      JakeTheDog
                      Link Parent
                      You literally said "catastrophic consequences" in your first comment. Tildes has a reputation for more serious discourse, if you want to make jokes/half-jokes then you need to be explicit (and let...

                      I was not the one making that argument. I just was half-jokingly saying potentially catastrophic consequences.

                      I am sure opening up the moon or apparently mars even to mining will not lead to any catastrophic consequences in our future.

                      You literally said "catastrophic consequences" in your first comment. Tildes has a reputation for more serious discourse, if you want to make jokes/half-jokes then you need to be explicit (and let us label it as such). Otherwise we will take it as serious opinion.

                      Is it? It is not like mining our natural resources on Earth has provided some massive economic boost to the global population.

                      Okay so this here sounds like a joke. We literally have entire periods of human civilization named after natural resources that we could extract for the first time (e.g. stone vs bronze age). So, clearly the answer is yes—mining resources has profound effects on prosperity and quality of life.

                      us some shinier electronics and a slightly better quality of life

                      Those shiny electronics include high-tech hospital equipment like MRI's. Try living without medicine (and whatever device you're using to browse the web with right now) and let me know what your quality of life is like.

                      Why would any mining companies exploiting the global poor in third world countries just give that up because some companies have started doing the same on the moon?

                      Because of capitalism—whatever is more economically efficient, wins. The Moon, and especially asteroids, have unfathomable quantities of rare resources.

                      the moon as it has existed for millenia

                      Nothing in Nature is static. The Moon is constantly being bombarded by particles and asteroids, which is why there are massive craters to begin with (IMO it would be less pleasant to look at if it were smooth anyways). The changes brought on by mining are nothing compared to what the Moon has naturally experienced. If you're that concerned with its aesthetic as it currently exists, you should probably build some kind of asteroid shield for it.

                      I think we fundamentally disagree in that I believe there is tremendous intrinsic value in preserving the moon as it has existed for millenia. Human beings have looked up at the same moon for as long as we have been a species. I think preserving that is invaluable.

                      Again, unless you are an amateur astronomer or photographer, you won't be noticing a few extra dimples on the Moon. It will still be beautiful.
                      But, that's all I wanted to know. I value the prosperity and preservation of living beings on Earth more than aesthetics.

                      7 votes
                      1. emdash
                        Link Parent
                        Frankly, if we have the technology to mine the moon at a scale significant enough to cause the visibility of 'dimples' on its surface, then there are significant quantities of humans living on the...

                        Again, unless you are an amateur astronomer or photographer, you won't be noticing a few extra dimples on the Moon. It will still be beautiful. But, that's all I wanted to know. I value the prosperity and preservation of living beings on Earth more than aesthetics.

                        Frankly, if we have the technology to mine the moon at a scale significant enough to cause the visibility of 'dimples' on its surface, then there are significant quantities of humans living on the moon in the first place, which means humanity does now have a much more impressing view on the Moon's surface than just being a far-away astronomer.

                        I may not live in the Grand Canyon, or the United States, but hell, would I be disappointed to see it get razed for the purposes of resource extraction.

                        But, that's all I wanted to know. I value the prosperity and preservation of living beings on Earth more than aesthetics.

                        And moon mining may not be necessary for that. I'm wonder what Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir would think of statements like this regarding Yosemite National Park.

                        There's significantly less important asteroids with far better concentrations of minerals and resources that can be accessed with significantly less ΔV compared to the Moon. Let's use them instead if you're intent on strip-mining other worlds so humanity can "prosper" further.

                        This whole conversation chain seems to be ignoring that mining the moon is idiotic in the first place for reasons entirely unrelated to the mining activity itself.

                        5 votes
        2. [21]
          gpl
          Link Parent
          There is no environment on the moon to take care of - the only environmental concerns (I can think of) are a) literally mining the moon away which I have trouble taking seriously as a concern and...

          My concern is the fact that mining in the United States, particularly coal mining, has been hugely destructive to the environment. If companies are willing to destroy the Appalachia for the sake of a bit of coal, I have no faith on them engaging in good business practices when they are on an entirely different planet with even less accountability.

          There is no environment on the moon to take care of - the only environmental concerns (I can think of) are a) literally mining the moon away which I have trouble taking seriously as a concern and b) inhibiting potential scientific usage of the moon (kicking up dust that obscures moon-based telescopes, for example. It's unclear whether this could even be a problem).

          How would mining on the moon even be regulated? Would it just be a free for all for companies to do what they want?

          What about issues of miner safety? Companies already view them as an expendable resource as it is. What protections would be put in place if they are mining on the moon?

          Obviously these are all things to be worked out, but they aren't reasons to reject moon mining wholesale. The same could have been said of the nuclear industry 50 odd years ago, but that ended up being regulated quite intensely and is very safe as a result. I'm not sure the best comparison to make is to the mining industry on earth given the insane technological complexity that would go into setting up a successful mining business on the moon. I think other industries like the nuclear industry or space industry are better comparisons, and each are quite regulated.

          Seems like there is plenty of silicon, which makes up 20% of moon dirt. Apparently about 8% of the moon's dirt is also titanium.

          We will never extract enough of these to make a noticeable difference in any gravitational effect the moon has on the Earth. As a comparison, look at the extraction of silicon on Earth: a rough estimate of the yearly production of Si on earth is 7,200,000 tons per year (final column, sourced from a USGS fact sheet). Let's be generous and assume that this rate has more or less been the same for the last 100 years (in reality, it has not so this estimate will be greatly inflated). That is 720,000,000 tons of silicon extracted, or 7.2 * 10^8 tons. The total mass of the earth is roughly 10^21 metric tons. That means that, in the last 100 years, we have extracted roughly 10^-11 % of the earth's mass in silicon. That is .00000000001%.

          Obviously this is all back of the envelope but the point is to drive home the scales involved here. Even if we mined the moon with the same production rate that we do here on earth (which is already asking a lot given the technological complexities involved with even getting there, let alone mining and returning resources), and did so for literally thousands of years, with no regulation, we would still see no effect on things like tides on earth. It is simply not a concern.

          This isn't to say there aren't concerns to be had, as you rightly point out regarding worker's rights and regulation. But those are concerns that can be addressed given enough political will - we have done it before with things like nuclear. I don't think the default assumption should be that there will be absolutely no regulation; in fact, there are barely any industries that is true of here on earth. My personal opinion is that if we are to be mining for resources, we ought to be doing it in a place with no environment to destroy.

          15 votes
          1. [9]
            Gaywallet
            Link Parent
            If you're not an expert on this, maybe don't go on the internet and argue that it's 'probably okay'. This is not the kind of thing we should be encouraging in any way shape or form. What necessary...

            There is no environment on the moon to take care of - the only environmental concerns (I can think of) are a) literally mining the moon away which I have trouble taking seriously as a concern and b) inhibiting potential scientific usage of the moon (kicking up dust that obscures moon-based telescopes, for example. It's unclear whether this could even be a problem).

            If you're not an expert on this, maybe don't go on the internet and argue that it's 'probably okay'.

            This is not the kind of thing we should be encouraging in any way shape or form. What necessary good does mining the moon do for humanity? If we can't learn to live with the resources we have access to, or at the very least learn the slightest bit from our blunders on earth than we certainly don't deserve to be destroying the rest of the universe. Let us destroy only ourselves with our own stupidity, greed, and unchecked egos, please.

            5 votes
            1. [4]
              gpl
              Link Parent
              To begin, I am an astronomer/cosmologist, so while I am not an expert in moon-mining, as such things do not exist, I do feel relatively qualified to say that we will not mass-strip the moon enough...

              If you're not an expert on this, maybe don't go on the internet and argue that it's 'probably okay'.

              To begin, I am an astronomer/cosmologist, so while I am not an expert in moon-mining, as such things do not exist, I do feel relatively qualified to say that we will not mass-strip the moon enough to have any impact on life on earth. In fact it feels a bit silly that it's even necessary to point this out, but nonetheless it seems that's a real concern in this thread. I also feel relatively qualified to say that mining will likely not impact things like moon-based telescopes or other scientific endeavors using the moon for a common-good purpose.

              As I said, there are obvious issues with mining on the moon, but they are mostly social in nature. How can we guarantee worker's rights? Who has the right to mine the moon? To whom should the profits and resources extracted therein belong? And others. But I have a very hard time taking seriously concerns that mining on the moon will actually strip enough mass to influence in any way life on earth, and seeing as there is literally no other natural environment on the moon, I fail to see any real environmental concerns with doing so. Again, I am not advocating unregulated, free-for-all extraction of the moon's resources (even though I truly don't believe such an industry would affect life on earth). In fact, I'm not even sure I'm really advocating for moon mining at all.

              What necessary good does mining the moon do for humanity?

              Shifting resource extraction that is largely necessary for a technological society from a location where it does undeniable harm to the environment to one where it does not seems like an overall net benefit for humans. Not to mention that the resources available on the moon such as tritium could play a pivotal role in any clean-energy future we have, which also seems like a net good. Not to mention that the technological and logistical challenges that would have to be overcome in establishing a moon to earth supply chain of raw materials would undoubtedly advance our space-faring abilities to the point that long term habitation on other worlds is feasible.

              19 votes
              1. [3]
                Gaywallet
                Link Parent
                Would you say the majority of problems on earth were/are caused by issues that are mostly social in nature or of a different source?

                As I said, there are obvious issues with mining on the moon, but they are mostly social in nature.

                Would you say the majority of problems on earth were/are caused by issues that are mostly social in nature or of a different source?

                3 votes
                1. [2]
                  gpl
                  Link Parent
                  Pretty much every issue is socially caused, yes. The distinction I was trying to make is in effect and not cause. Issues involving resource extraction on the moon (ignoring how those resources are...

                  Pretty much every issue is socially caused, yes. The distinction I was trying to make is in effect and not cause. Issues involving resource extraction on the moon (ignoring how those resources are subsequently used which obviously can have environmental impacts, as is true for extraction on earth) can harm the people involved in the extraction, but will not harm the environment. Perhaps I should have phrased this better.

                  8 votes
                  1. Gaywallet
                    Link Parent
                    I think you phrased it fine. My point is simply that we shouldn't be giving anyone a free pass because we have a lot of issues we need to systematically fix before we go on and make the problem...

                    I think you phrased it fine. My point is simply that we shouldn't be giving anyone a free pass because we have a lot of issues we need to systematically fix before we go on and make the problem even worse and more difficult to undo.

                    But that's just my extremely jaded take on humanity.

                    4 votes
            2. [4]
              Loire
              Link Parent
              With all do respect this is a little hypocritical. The original OP to this entire thread was unfactual, panicked posting implying that mineral extraction would lead to the wholesale destruction of...

              With all do respect this is a little hypocritical. The original OP to this entire thread was unfactual, panicked posting implying that mineral extraction would lead to the wholesale destruction of the moon. You didn't say a thing about that.

              If we can't post about things we "are not experts on" then shut tildes down now because most of us are only experts on one thing, and a number of us could hardly even be considered that.

              4 votes
              1. [3]
                Gaywallet
                Link Parent
                How is it hypocritical if I'm not the OP? I'm simply asking that we take a step back for a second and consider the whole picture and be sure to phrase things in a conscious manner to prevent it's...

                How is it hypocritical if I'm not the OP?

                I'm simply asking that we take a step back for a second and consider the whole picture and be sure to phrase things in a conscious manner to prevent it's potential abuse.

                3 votes
                1. [2]
                  Loire
                  Link Parent
                  Because @gpl's post was considered and at least vaguely factual and the OP's was reactionary (in the non political sense of the term) nonsense but you decided @gpl's post deserved the criticism....

                  Because @gpl's post was considered and at least vaguely factual and the OP's was reactionary (in the non political sense of the term) nonsense but you decided @gpl's post deserved the criticism.

                  You have a different opinion then his, for sure engage him as you have lower in the thread but don't tell him off for posting at all because you believe he's not qualified.

                  6 votes
                  1. Gaywallet
                    Link Parent
                    Apologies, I will work on my wording in the future.

                    don't tell him off

                    Apologies, I will work on my wording in the future.

                    4 votes
          2. [11]
            emdash
            Link Parent
            And yet, the moon is considered "beautiful" by many. The lunar environment is beautiful. Just like so many environments on Earth are considered beautiful. So there is something there to take care...

            There is no environment on the moon to take care of

            And yet, the moon is considered "beautiful" by many. The lunar environment is beautiful. Just like so many environments on Earth are considered beautiful. So there is something there to take care of. I detest the overly cold and analytical approach you've taken to rejecting any due consideration to this topic.

            3 votes
            1. [10]
              gpl
              Link Parent
              First, I don't think I've been cold and analytical in my analysis, and it is outright false that I have rejected any due consideration on this point. That I've come to a different (and seemingly...

              First, I don't think I've been cold and analytical in my analysis, and it is outright false that I have rejected any due consideration on this point. That I've come to a different (and seemingly unpopular) conclusion is evident, but it's certainly not enough to imply I'm heartless. I've acknowledged many times there are issues to be resolved when it comes to mining the moon, and I think I've acknowledged in this thread that any such resources extraction would have to be highly regulated to begin with; in fact, that's essentially an assumption I am operating under when I make these arguments. I think I've also shown it to be a reasonable one.

              The moon is beautiful, I completely agree. There is no natural environment on it to take care of. Both of these things can be and are true. I think forests are beautiful as well, but I also live in a wooden house. The beauty of the moon can absolutely be preserved in 99.9999% of its area while extracting vital resources that will make the environment here on earth much healthier, if we utilize them (hydrogen-3 fusion reactors, e.g.). If considering that a fair trade makes me "cold and analytical" so be it, but it's a trade I would happily take if it means a healthier Earth and moon.

              8 votes
              1. [5]
                emdash
                Link Parent
                Also, an aside, but it'll never, ever be worth mining the moon for Hydrogen-3 for fusion reactors on Earth. In fact, it's questionable whether asteroid mining will ever be economically viable at...

                Also, an aside, but it'll never, ever be worth mining the moon for Hydrogen-3 for fusion reactors on Earth. In fact, it's questionable whether asteroid mining will ever be economically viable at all. Choice quote from Elon Musk, who knows vaguely what he's talking about on this topic:

                "If you had crack cocaine on Mars... like in pre-packaged pallets, it still wouldn't make sense to bring it back here"

                It would be literally cheaper to extract Tritium from seawater with the most expensive electricity possible here on Earth, than it would be to send a spacecraft to the Moon to retrieve it from there.

                4 votes
                1. [4]
                  Loire
                  (edited )
                  Link Parent
                  Three things you are ignoring: A) When we begin colonizing space we will need resources that do not derive from the Earth's surface. B) Wholesale colonization of space will result in advancing...

                  Three things you are ignoring:

                  A) When we begin colonizing space we will need resources that do not derive from the Earth's surface.

                  B) Wholesale colonization of space will result in advancing technology and lowering of costs concerning moving mass to and from Earth.

                  C) Eventually the Earth will "run out" of (i.e.: Becomes too expensive to mine that deep) certain resources. At which point it will become more economic to drop the pallets of crack cocaine from space.

                  3 votes
                  1. [3]
                    emdash
                    Link Parent
                    Definitely not ignoring these! I just don't consider them as relevant. Here's why: And the Moon, as a celestial body with a significant gravity well, and no atmosphere for aerobraking, is a...

                    Definitely not ignoring these! I just don't consider them as relevant. Here's why:

                    When we begin colonizing space we will need resources that do not derive from the Earth's surface.

                    And the Moon, as a celestial body with a significant gravity well, and no atmosphere for aerobraking, is a terrible place to derive resources anyway. You would spend more energy getting down and up from the Moon's surface than you would extracting said energy for additional missions—unless you'e going to the moon anyway as a destination, in which case, many many many humans will have an interest in preserving sites of geologic interest, which cycles back to my response to @gpl here. As soon as there are humans living and working on the moon, then the purview of what's considered an area of exceptional natural beauty will fall on all of humanity—it doesn't matter if you yourself cannot visit.

                    Wholesale colonization of space will result in advancing technology and lowering of costs concerning moving mass to and from Earth.

                    Unlikely. Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation is a bitch. It's made even worse by the absolutely terrible efficiencies of conventional chemical rocket engines—which operate close to the upper limits of their efficiency anyway. Ion engines will never be powerful enough to provide the thrust needed to escape a gravity well—even if you had a fusion reactor attached. This is to say: there isn't much technology left to advance in regards to rocket propulsion. Expanse-esque Esptein Drives aren't likely any time soon.

                    Eventually the Earth will "run out" of (i.e.: Becomes too expensive to mine that deep) certain resources. At which point it will become more economic to drop the pallets of crack cocaine from space.

                    Possible, but what's more probable is that the economics of the products that are needed (palladium, etc) will be eschewed for cheaper options found here on Earth—when possible—before they're needed to be re-delivered from space. You aren't going to be able to retrieve satisfiable quantities of even some of the most valuable rare earths at prices that can compete with alternative solutions here on the ground—including recycling of already used material, which is presently the largest untapped source of rare earths.

                    3 votes
                    1. [2]
                      gpl
                      Link Parent
                      This is so tangential to the rest of your post, but to be honest it's pretty amazing humans were able to get rockets to work at all. The equation may be a bitch in terms of energy in-deltaV out...

                      Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation is a bitch.

                      This is so tangential to the rest of your post, but to be honest it's pretty amazing humans were able to get rockets to work at all. The equation may be a bitch in terms of energy in-deltaV out efficiency, but it's a minor miracle it works at all.

                      2 votes
                      1. emdash
                        Link Parent
                        It's insane isn't it—rocket engines are one of those marvels that always give me the thought of "this shouldn't be possible, but it is". I love this photo in particular of the Saturn V rising away...

                        It's insane isn't it—rocket engines are one of those marvels that always give me the thought of "this shouldn't be possible, but it is". I love this photo in particular of the Saturn V rising away from pad 39A—how those five F-1 engines at the back of the rocket are powerful enough to lift a decent-sized office building full of fuel towards the stars, and the fact they were intrinsically designed—with zero software engineering or CAD—to self-dampen and not shake themselves apart. Also of note is the brown/black exhaust visible around the very base of the engines, the gas generator exhaust was engineered to act as an insulator to prevent the super-hot exhaust gases of the main exhaust melting the nozzle extensions. The Saturn V was a work of art.

                        2 votes
              2. [4]
                emdash
                Link Parent
                I'm sorry but I just can't agree with this statement, and I can't get past your reasoning for it. Who's definition of "environment" or "beauty" are you using here? Would you consider the Apollo 11...

                There is no natural environment on it to take care of.

                I'm sorry but I just can't agree with this statement, and I can't get past your reasoning for it. Who's definition of "environment" or "beauty" are you using here? Would you consider the Apollo 11 landing site to be one of importance worth protecting? What is considered "heritage"? Who decides what land should be a national park, and what land should be an open-top coal mine?

                I'm not asking you these questions to answer them. I'm pointing to these are tough questions that people from many scientific and humanities-based disciplines still wrestle with today. So apologies, by color me skeptical if I think you can't just outright say "there's no environment there to take care of". I don't think it's quite as objective as you make out.

                3 votes
                1. [3]
                  gpl
                  Link Parent
                  I wasn't the one to introduce beauty into the equation here, although I agree the moon is beautiful. For environment I mean natural environment (which I've tried to be clear about), and by that I...

                  I wasn't the one to introduce beauty into the equation here, although I agree the moon is beautiful. For environment I mean natural environment (which I've tried to be clear about), and by that I mean plants, animals, vegetation, and natural cycles that regulate and maintain a balance between those things. I feel this is a reasonable definition - I essentially mean that the moon has no ecology.

                  Would you consider the Apollo 11 landing site to be one of importance worth protecting? What is considered "heritage"? Who decides what land should be a national park, and what land should be an open-top coal mine?

                  Yes, of course I think the Apollo 11 site should be preserved. I think Yellowstone should remain untouched, and the grand canyon. That doesn't mean I don't think we should harvest lumber and clay. As I've stated multiple times I am operating under the assumption that any such resource extraction will be highly regulated. If the only way to extract resources was to carve a huge Nestle logo into the face of the moon I'd also be opposed. I just think this choice between no resource extraction and completely trashing the moon's surface is a silly one because that's not the choice at all and I'm not sure why the assumption is that it is.

                  I'm pointing to these are tough questions that people from many scientific and humanities-based disciplines still wrestle with today. So apologies, by color me skeptical if I think you can't just outright say "there's no environment there to take care of".

                  Maybe I've been unclear or should have been using other terms, but I do think I can objectively say the moon has no environment to take care of, at least using the definition I've outlined above which is the one I've been operating under as I make this argument. This isn't to say there is nothing on the moon to take care of, or even to say that we shouldn't take care of the moon. But the chief concerns will be social and aesthetic and not environmental or ecological. We may end up not wanting to mine on the moon in order to preserve it's beauty, but it won't be to preserve its natural ecosystems.

                  I'll respond to your other comment here too as to avoid branching discussions (you may want to edit your comment to include it here).

                  Also, an aside, but it'll never, ever be worth mining the moon for Hydrogen-3 for fusion reactors on Earth. In fact, it's questionable whether asteroid mining will ever be economically viable at all.

                  Yes, of course if mining on the moon had not tangible benefits socially or economically I would not support mining it. I obviously don't support moon strip mining just for the hell of it. I feel like an operating assumption during this discussion was that there would be either an economic or social reason that makes mining on the moon an attractive option. I completely agree that if it ends up being the case that resource extraction on the moon isn't worth it for any reason then it shouldn't be pursued just for kicks. I'm not even sure why I have to clarify that.

                  5 votes
                  1. [2]
                    emdash
                    Link Parent
                    You raise some good points! What seems to be in contention here is the definition of "environment". I'm not going to whip out Merriam-Webster definitions, but it's clear an environment includes...

                    You raise some good points! What seems to be in contention here is the definition of "environment". I'm not going to whip out Merriam-Webster definitions, but it's clear an environment includes more than its ecological surroundings. After all, the phrase "Lunar environment" is actually a very common one. You say:

                    I feel this is a reasonable definition - I essentially mean that the moon has no ecology.

                    I present a counterpoint: Grand Canyon National Park is famed not for its ecology, but purely for its geology. In fact, it's the highly inanimate and lifeless processes that formed the Grand Canyon that make GCNP so famous and beautiful. Sure, there's no doubt plants and animals worth protecting and preserving within the park, but the primary reason GCNP was preserved in the first place was for its majestic awe. In fact, Muir said much the same about Yosemite NP. The same almost certainly applies to the Moon. You may never have visited them, or ever have a chance to: but they're still within our purview. We still have an opportunity to declare sites on other celestial bodies as untouched.

                    You feel like the Apollo lunar landing sites should be preserved—I feel like Shackleton Crater at the Lunar South Pole should be too—yet it's actually a prime candidate for a lunar base and resource extraction, primarily because it has both areas that are always exposed to sunlight, and also never exposed to sunlight. What makes it valuable economically and logistically also makes it valuable environmentally. Who decides whether Shackleton should be strip mined?

                    What about other famous Maria and craters on the lunar surface? Should the U.S. government simply be able to make blind decisions about economically whoring out the Moon's surface without global input? These are tough questions that legally are still in grey areas.

                    My answer is certainly not the U.S. government alone. The Outer Space Treaty, and unfortunately, the unratified Moon Treaty also, were very clear about the ownership of celestial bodies.

                    5 votes
                    1. gpl
                      Link Parent
                      This post brought up some really good points and actually made me change my view a bit. I agree that the contention here is the working definition of environment - mine is certainly more narrow...

                      This post brought up some really good points and actually made me change my view a bit. I agree that the contention here is the working definition of environment - mine is certainly more narrow and perhaps unnecessarily so. I was thinking more in terms of ecology than the broader environment, which your Grand Canyon comparison makes clear isn't sufficient to fully capture even environmental concerns here on Earth.

                      I'm not sure I'm wholesale convinced resource extraction should never be allowed on the Moon (or Mars, provided we get there eventually), but I do certainly agree that such eventualities, should they be deemed necessary and beneficial, should not be solely up to the discretion of one government. I do think a happy medium exists where useful spots could be dedicated to resource extraction with either the eventual benefit of the environment here on earth, or else with the goal of furthering scientific knowledge and exploration. The moon is a vast place and, as I've acknowledged before, certainly worthy of protection due to its cultural import and beauty. I think it can be reasonably protected while still being leveraged to further human goals, provided it is done in a reasonable and unilateral matter.

                      3 votes
    2. [2]
      twisterghost
      Link Parent
      Sure, we don't have tides and we've caused untold damage to our home planet, but for a brief moment, we created so much value for our shareholders.

      Sure, we don't have tides and we've caused untold damage to our home planet, but for a brief moment, we created so much value for our shareholders.

      18 votes
    3. [2]
      balooga
      Link Parent
      Right there with you, and though I'm not typically one to defend Trump I do think in the interest of truth we should be straightforward: He (obviously) doesn't think the moon is "a part of Mars."...

      It is unclear whether the president actually thinks the moon is a part of Mars but the two are in fact quite far apart – the moon, which orbits Earth, is around 238,000 miles away from our planet while Mars, which is itself a planet, is an average of 140m miles away from Earth.

      I hate everything about this.

      Right there with you, and though I'm not typically one to defend Trump I do think in the interest of truth we should be straightforward: He (obviously) doesn't think the moon is "a part of Mars." The Trump tweet that led to this statement:

      For all of the money we are spending, NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago. They should be focused on the much bigger things we are doing, including Mars (of which the Moon is a part), Defense and Science!

      Trump writes at approximately a 4th grade level. His capitalization and punctuation are all over the place. I don't think I've seen a single tweet of his that didn't read like the the raving screed of a lunatic. His communication is so stream-of-consciousness, he frequently jumps through three or four ideas mid-sentence, completely abandoning whatever point he was originally trying to make along the way. But let's be charitable in our interpretation: Clearly he's saying that the moon is "a part" of "the much bigger things we are doing," not of "Mars." Terrible composition... but it was unprofessional for the Guardian to write a whole article around a bad-faith interpretation of it.

      8 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        Is there space for charitibility of interpretation when it comes to statements that can literally move the world? You or I can misspeak and it's not such a big deal, but the POTUS really needs to...

        Is there space for charitibility of interpretation when it comes to statements that can literally move the world? You or I can misspeak and it's not such a big deal, but the POTUS really needs to be better than that.

        4 votes
  2. [2]
    tesseractcat
    Link
    A relevant tildes post from a few months ago: https://tildes.net/~space/lp1/there_are_no_known_commodity_resources_in_space_that_could_be_sold_on_earth. I really doubt that mining in space will...

    A relevant tildes post from a few months ago: https://tildes.net/~space/lp1/there_are_no_known_commodity_resources_in_space_that_could_be_sold_on_earth.

    I really doubt that mining in space will happen before a significant human presence in space. I believe that we'll have to see a relatively large number of people living in space (e.g. in some sort of moon or mars base) before we actually start to see the infrastructure for space mining to become economically realistic. I don't know how large that number needs to be however.

    4 votes
    1. AugustusFerdinand
      Link Parent
      That entire article boils down to "it's really expensive right now because no one has done it yet" and in the comments on the article, it's pointed out that his math is wrong. It was really...

      That entire article boils down to "it's really expensive right now because no one has done it yet" and in the comments on the article, it's pointed out that his math is wrong. It was really expensive to do pretty much everything the first time...

      7 votes
  3. Hidegger
    Link
    Don't we want to be able to put a mining and refueling base on the moon if we want to travel to mars much more easily? I can't imagine it pays to send people to the moon over a few minerals, where...

    Don't we want to be able to put a mining and refueling base on the moon if we want to travel to mars much more easily? I can't imagine it pays to send people to the moon over a few minerals, where if it was used as hub for space travel the occasional mineral transfer would just be added bonus, similar how we stuff passenger planes with mail in the cargo holds instead of waiting and filling an entire cargo plane.

    4 votes
  4. Equinsu_Ocha
    Link
    If we can get more resources from going to space, we'd be going to space more. I'm all for going to space where we have potentially a near infinite number of places to live, room to grow, and life...

    If we can get more resources from going to space, we'd be going to space more.

    I'm all for going to space where we have potentially a near infinite number of places to live, room to grow, and life to evolve.

    1 vote
  5. Comment removed by site admin
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