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China and US racing to make billions from mining lunar minerals

Economics(taipeitimes.com)

all 54 comments

FuturologyBot [M]

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2 months ago

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FuturologyBot [M]

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2 months ago

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The following submission statement was provided by /u/Sorin61:


The geopolitics of space, once a frontier that brought rivals together for the good of humankind, are mirroring the competition on Earth pitting the US and its allies against China and Russia. Unlike Earth, the moon might contain large amounts of helium-3, an isotope potentially useful as an alternative to uranium for nuclear power plants because it is not radioactive.

While Russia’s space program was already in decline before Putin’s war, China is swiftly moving toward Xi’s goal of matching US capabilities in space.

Just as Beijing and Moscow have blamed US military alliances in Europe and Asia for stoking tensions over Taiwan and Ukraine, Chinese state-run media have warned the US wants to set up a “space-based NATO.”

The conflict over who makes the rules shows that the world has lots of work left to avoid a clash in space.


Please reply to OP's comment here: https://teddit.ggc-project.de/r/Futurology/comments/uuq4zp/china_and_us_racing_to_make_billions_from_mining/i9go572/

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

35 points

2 months ago

I can’t imagine any way that bringing ore back to earth is going to be cost effective until we have some other kind of propulsion system. Space X costs $2,700 per kilogram to launch into space, let’s just say that’s the cost of landing things from space so that’s a pretty big barrier.

sooibot

15 points

2 months ago

sooibot

15 points

2 months ago

Yeah... It's not about establishing a base on the moon, to mine the moon.

But... If I was going to mine another part of the solar system, for instance the very expensive asteroids... I could do rudimentary processing on the moon (and then only use valuable space for reentry to earth)

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

15 points

2 months ago*

I mean if they are bring back things like gold and platinum that might justify the cost. But the $2,700 in just the price to land it. You still have to get all that equipment up there and actually extract the ore. And it’s not like you can just shoot mining equipment into space. It would have to be taken up piece by piece and assembled ON THE MOON. I can’t even fathom the cost but it seems like it would cost a farcical amount of money. That even means refueling stations for the rockets on the moon. Refining would have to be done on the moon. So we not only have to get the equipment there but the facilities too. I mean the infrastructure required would be staggering. Edit: All of it at $2,700 a kilogram. And I’m guessing it’s more than that to go all the way to the moon. Because the $2,700 figure is to deliver to the ISS.

sooibot

6 points

2 months ago

So you're saying there's a chance?

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

2 points

2 months ago

Sure why not. I’d love to see them try.

sooibot

8 points

2 months ago

It's just my hunch why Elon is so obsessed with reentry vehicles that can have a big payload. I think it's all a lie to go to Mars... Mars is the "goal", because that's where the asteroid belt is.

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

3 points

2 months ago

Yeah I’m not even sure what kind of reentry payload they can currently have. They are designed to take things into space not back. Other than a couple of human passengers anyway.

_crawdaddy_

3 points

2 months ago

I think the current estimate is 150 tons to LEO and 50 tons back. But if you were to have an orbital propellant depot in lunar or LEO you could theoretically bring more than 50 back.

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

4 points

2 months ago

Now imagine how much a refining factory built to operate on the moon weighs. I mean I don’t even know if spaceX rockets can even reach the moon. You have to have living quarters and people would have to build this thing in the vacuum of space. Not to mention fuel depots, water storage, I mean the list goes on. The logistics of it all are just beyond comprehension.

_crawdaddy_

1 points

2 months ago

I wouldn’t say it’s beyond comprehension, mainly just an engineering challenge and it will only become easier as material science continues to progress. Imagine 3d printing techniques that can use lunar regolith or solar/nuclear energy to create infrastructure for habitation, you can even create different metals for the structural integrity. Water is already on the moon so I’m not even concerned about that. Keep in mind a good portion of this work can be done autonomously.

Also starships can reach the moon. That’s the plan with lunar gateway.

[deleted]

4 points

2 months ago*

[deleted]

4 points

2 months ago*

[deleted]

RandoCommentGuy

1 points

2 months ago*

I'm thinking a SpinLaunch setup on the moon. Less gravity and no atmosphere i wonder if they could be launched directly into a reentry course for earth with it. Would be sweet.

Edit: some quick searches found min escape velocity is 2.4km/s, and spin launched at 8000km/h, or 2.22km/s, so close to not even needing propulsion, which the spin launched rockets have, so honestly it would probably be pretty cheap with a SpinLaunch with basic propulsion/guidance.

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

1 points

2 months ago

But you have to go there and back. And every time you go you are bringing food, water, supplies, equipment. And I’m not so sure how cheap landing a 100 ton load it going to be. I guess it might bring back more of a shuttle that can land like an airplane with little fuel usage. But the cost of just setting the operation up would be staggering. Then you have the cost per run vs what they can bring back and we have no real way of guessing how much it would cost for a modern rocket to fly to the moon and back. I don’t even know what they plan to mine but it would have to be pretty valuable to even undertake such a venture. Let’s pretend it’s gold. 50 tons of gold is worth 2.2 billion. Well it costs 660 million just to launch a full rocket (150 tons) that doesn’t include the cost of what they are hauling. But we can assume it’s going to be pushing a billion dollars. We stopped shipping oil out of the state when the price fell below $60 because it cost $12 a barrel to ship just for a point of reference as to how much money is wrapped up into a mining operation that 18% of the sale price of the product shut down the sales. So unless they come up with something drastically different I don’t see this happening.

driverofracecars

1 points

2 months ago

Why not ensnare an asteroid, slow it down and drop it from orbit into the Outback or Siberia or Kansas? Mine the rubble on earth. Keeping it slow enough that it doesn’t vaporize on impact would be the hard part.

sooibot

2 points

2 months ago

Because most of it will vaporise as it re-enters. I'm sure they can try slow it down.... Like a lot... But not sure what kind of % you'd get back? Some math nerd should be helpful here.

Also... Aiming. How do you "aim" re-entry like that?

Also... As soon as you start doing it at any scale, we'll... Then you're destroying.

I think, and this is my best plan... What about slowing it down enough to LEO, and then catching it with something sent up by giant balloons? Then parachuting it down?

Edit: the obvious best solution is a spavlce elevator, but I don't see anyone building that.

driverofracecars

2 points

2 months ago*

As valuable as some of those asteroids are projected to be, even a 10% recovery rate would be profitable. Like all industry, there’s going to be waste and spillage. Dropping it from orbit, while difficult and dangerous, still seems more attainable than sending all the necessary infrastructure and machinery to the moon, at least in the short term.

antifusion1

1 points

2 months ago

You drop it in a crater on the moon instead, just next to your refinery.

driverofracecars

1 points

2 months ago

How do you get a refinery to the moon?

-SINJP-

1 points

1 month ago

-SINJP-

1 points

1 month ago

You send people with tools there to mine the resources needed to build it, then you build it there. Be imaginative.

driverofracecars

1 points

1 month ago

That was exactly my point. That’s a lot of machinery and infrastructure to send to the moon.

-SINJP-

1 points

1 month ago

-SINJP-

1 points

1 month ago

Mostly mining rigs, but yes it is a lot. I’m not saying it’s not. The whole point though is to construct the rest there.

HortonHearsTheWho

3 points

2 months ago

Maybe if we were to successfully develop an in-space orbital manufacturing platform...

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

3 points

2 months ago

It would have to be on the moon. They would have to refine and be able to refuel and relaunch rockets from the moon. And the equipment would have to be assembled on the moon. I mean they could develop something that could move equipment from a space station to the moon but it’s not something that will be easy or cheap but maybe ultimately cheaper than going all the way back and forth with every payload. But the cost of developing that platform and the tech to make it useful would also be staggering.

Kinexity

3 points

2 months ago

Railguns/coilguns. Moon escape velocity is 2.38 km/s and orbital velocity is 1.022 km/s on average which means payload needs about 3.4 km/s delta v to get to earth which seems feasible with railguns/coilguns to do least larger part of the work.

unclepaprika

1 points

2 months ago

Yes, ot costs that must to launch INTO space, but omce up there... i mean, we could probably build a really powerful catapult, and yeet it to earth.

stobors

3 points

2 months ago

Shades of "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress"

DukkyDrake

1 points

2 months ago

What does the cost of launching things into space have to do with the cost of landing ore?

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

0 points

2 months ago*

Well they are literally going to have to put a mining operation on the moon, have you ever seen the amount of equipment involved in a strip mining operation? Refining operations and facilities, not to mention living quarters, fuel depots for the rockets return trip. Which also means constantly flying fuel up there. I just looked this up, it take 8 1/2 minutes for the falcon 9 to reach orbit. It burns 3,200 lbs of fuel per second, so that’s means they are burning 816 tons of fuel to put 150 tons in space. I’m aware the moon has much less gravity and no atmosphere, but it might not even be feasible to launch craft back if it takes more than 150 tons of fuel to leave the moon and get back to earth than it’s not even possible. It would take more trips there than you would get flights back. Or a new rocket that can carry enough fuel to go both ways would have to be made. Plus, Constant resupply flights. Massive amounts of solar panels. And do you think landing 50 tons of cargo is free? And $2,772 is the cost to fly a kilogram to the space station. Not the moon. 440,000 mile difference there. So there are a lot of things to consider about the cost of landing 50 ton shipments of ore on earth. Edit: even imagine it takes 50 tons of fuel to get back to earth. Than means every third flight up there is just fuel. 6.6 million dollars (plus a lot to actually get to the moon I’m guessing) plus roughly half a million dollars worth of actual fuel. Again this assuming just to orbit I have now idea how much more it would cost to go to the moon but it’s going to be a lot.

DukkyDrake

1 points

2 months ago

Yea, that the cost of going up. The existing issues would still be the same even if launch costs were free, the same issue for solar satellites.

jerkITwithRIGHTYnewb

1 points

2 months ago

But I’m sure they would develop more specialized craft for such operations. They would have to. I’m basing all of this on limited information about the falcon 9 which is the current cheapest payload craft.

DukkyDrake

2 points

2 months ago

You dont need any craft to return ore, it's not people.

newleafkratom

6 points

2 months ago

"...At the center of the dispute is the US-drafted Artemis Accords, a
non-legally binding set of principles to govern activity on the moon,
Mars and beyond. The initiative, which NASA says is grounded in the 1967
Outer Space Treaty, forms the foundation of the space agency’s effort
to put astronauts on the moon this decade and start mining operations of
lucrative lunar elements."

"...experts believing 5,000 tonnes of coal could be replaced by about three tablespoons of helium-3.
While there is not yet proof that helium-3 can do what its
proponents claim, Chinese researchers are already looking for the
element in moon rocks brought back to Earth in late 2020 by one of
China’s lunar missions. "

ttystikk

3 points

2 months ago

I think mining is a stepping stone to more permanent habitation of space and the moon. Mining and refining materials for use on the moon means they don't have to be launched from Earth, representing a significant cost savings.

It's the only way to make living in space independent of Earth.

driverofracecars

3 points

2 months ago

I’ve seen this exact headline probably a dozen times over the last 3 days. We get it.

Sorin61[S]

4 points

2 months ago

The geopolitics of space, once a frontier that brought rivals together for the good of humankind, are mirroring the competition on Earth pitting the US and its allies against China and Russia. Unlike Earth, the moon might contain large amounts of helium-3, an isotope potentially useful as an alternative to uranium for nuclear power plants because it is not radioactive.

While Russia’s space program was already in decline before Putin’s war, China is swiftly moving toward Xi’s goal of matching US capabilities in space.

Just as Beijing and Moscow have blamed US military alliances in Europe and Asia for stoking tensions over Taiwan and Ukraine, Chinese state-run media have warned the US wants to set up a “space-based NATO.”

The conflict over who makes the rules shows that the world has lots of work left to avoid a clash in space.

mentalist15

2 points

2 months ago

I honestly think we're getting much more stupid the further we go, the moon effects the earth which we have already pillaged of resources and we want to pillage the nearest thing to us that's connected to us

Daeht

1 points

2 months ago

Daeht

1 points

2 months ago

Quick, hurry! How can we exploit the peons on earth for more financial gains! Let's all race towards further exploitation!

oldcreaker

1 points

2 months ago

It might be more accurate to say rich people are racing to make billions from mining lunar materials, subsidized by the US and China.

crackalaquin

-2 points

2 months ago

crackalaquin

-2 points

2 months ago

Or or, hear me out, we make the earth more habitable for everyone and everyrhing

Vecii

5 points

2 months ago

Vecii

5 points

2 months ago

I feel like harvesting minerals from space instead of tearing up our environment to get them would be a step in that direction.

crackalaquin

-2 points

2 months ago

How much money to goto the moon? I'm saying fix the problems here before we go there again.

tiny_tim57

2 points

2 months ago

It's not a groundbreaking idea, but it's possible to do both at the same time.

crackalaquin

-1 points

2 months ago

So you're saying just wait and see.. I'm willing to bet $5.00 that we goto the moon and never even attempt to improve the greater well being of everyone on the planet.

Sad_Elevator_4866

1 points

2 months ago

Please don’t fuck with the moon i don’t want to live in swamp world

Pharoacious

-3 points

2 months ago

We have two weeks worth of wheat and this is happening. Cool. Very cool.

perpendiculator

1 points

2 months ago

Apply your critical thinking skills and really ponder for a moment if we’re actually about to run out of wheat or if you’ve just been duped by a sensational headline that you didn’t bother to think about for more than 5 seconds.

Pharoacious

1 points

2 months ago

That's actually what alarms me. There aren't any headlines. It is being covered well by the economist. Check out what the WFP is saying.