Moon Miner

Why the Moon?

Why return to the Moon? Mostly to build up industry to the point at which millions of tons of materials can be launched into space every year for the production of:
1) energy in the form of helium 3 for fusion reactors or solar power satellites, we will need about 60 TW by the mid 21st century based on present rates of growth....but that's primary thermal energy and only a third really gets used, the rest is waste heat...if we go all electrical we need 20 TW electrical thus we'd need one thousand gigantic powersats rated at 20 GWe each in addition to receiving antennas (rectennas) on the ground and a whole new heavier power grid, so this is an enormous challenge.
2) large space stations for tourism, research, astronomy,
3) large GEO telecommunications space stations,
4) possibly microgravity factories that make things that can only be made in space (that's always been a big dream but we have yet to find a product that can't be made more economically on Earth),
5) space shipyards to build ships to Mars and robotic mining ships to asteroids as well as propellant for these ships (LUNOX, hydrogen or silane maybe that depends on how much ice we can mine and whether or not the LH2 is cheap, raw regolith for mass driver propulsion, sodium and perhaps magnesium for ion drives, and plenty of aluminum, magnesium and titanium alloys to build these things),
6) space tourism in orbit, on the Moon, even Mars,
7) lunar observatories and huge telescopes in space that can actually see exoplanets well enough to see cloud patterns and continents of the nearer exoplanets and spectroscopically study them....if we detect chlorophyll, wow!!,
8) robotic and manned ships to Europa, Titan, Enceladus, Mercury and beyond....
9) space colonies built of lunar and asteroidal materials.....
10) and consider the spin offs as we develop all this technology as well as the infinite supply of clean energy to the Earth....A lot of AI development will be required and the hardware and software for this could find all sorts of unpredictable applications.....
11) with lunar materials large fleets of ships could be sent to Mars and we could terraform it or if you prefer aerioform it or rejuvenate it....what we learn on Mars will be applied in the more distant future when we travel to other star systems and find Marslike planets and other worlds where life has never evolved but the right conditions exist for the planting of life on those worlds and what we learn about mining asteroids and building space colonies--veritable cities in space, will be applied in other star systems which most probably have asteroids and comets also....
12) and let's not forget that filmmakers will have so many opportunities that several cable channels could be filled with shows about whats going on up on the High Frontier and that these new frontiers will inspire untold generations of new artists, musicians, poets, writers, sculptors and other creative types....athletic competitions in low G, weightless dancers, broadcast live.... 
14) HOPE for a long lasting future for the human more end of the world scenarios....and the development of trade between the Moon, Mars, asteroids, space colonies, settlements on other worlds and subsequently a larger economy that offers new business opportunities...a chance for entrepeneurs to tap new for developing new generations of leaders in space, that will happen...many brave new social experiments will happen on the High Frontier...

Lunar Money Matters

How much would it cost to build a bootstrapping base on the Moon for supplying materials for solar power satellite construction and other projects on the Moon and in orbit? We can make some estimates. A corporation would have to be formed that was capitalized by private multi-billion dollar fortunes, large international companies and by the sale of stocks and bonds. Research and development of all hardware and software would be required. That alone might cost one or two billion dollars.

If the initial batch of equipment, the "lunar industrial seed," weighs in at 1000 tons and a Falcon Heavy can put 53 tons in LEO for $90 million the cost of orbiting this would be $1.7 billion. The cost of the actual equipment might be one or two billion dollars. So now we are at $3.7 billion to $5.7 billion. Transporting the "seed" to the Moon will not be cheap. Solar electric cargo tugs will have to be orbited and they will need propellant although not a lot compared to chemical rockets. We can guess that the tugs and their hydrogen, argon or xenon propellant loads will total about 300 tons. Orbiting that would cost about $500 million. Landers and propellant to move the cargo from LLO or EML1 to the lunar surface would be needed. That could add up to another 1500 tons to LEO that then has to be moved to LLO or EML1. It would cost about $2.5 billion to put this in orbit. So we are looking at $6.7 billion to $8.7 billion.

There would also have to be ground stations for tracking and control that would add cost. So a wild guess is that about $10 billion would be involved. There might be ways to reduce costs. If NASA builds a base in the south polar regions of the Moon and successfully mines ice, that ice could be used to make propellant for reusable landers that shuttle cargoes down from LLO or EML1 to the base site. The best place to put a mass driver launcher on the Moon seems to be at 33.1 degrees east on the lunar equator. If NASA can supply lander propellant for a reasonable cost over a billion dollars could be saved.

How much money can the base earn? At $1 per kilogram launched by mass driver delivering 600,000 metric tons per year, that's $600 million per year. It would take about 17 years to break even if $10 billion is spent. An extensive amount of space industry would have to exist. Solar power satellites are the only way to make a business case for lunar industrialization. When we consider that a 5GWe space solar power satellite selling electricity at 2 cts./ kWhr could make $867 million annually and $2.19 billion annually at 5 cts./kWhr everything looks more lucrative. Wholesale electricity is sold for about 5 cts./kWhr today and retail goes for 10 to 11 cts./kWhr. Space solar power satellites could earn substantial profits selling power to developed nations and still earn plenty selling cheap electricity to developing nations. Global living standards could be improved without resorting to cheap fossil fuels.