NASA SP-509, overview
Space Resources
Mary Fae McKay, David S. McKay, and Michael B. Duke
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Houston, Texas
National Aeronautics and Space Administration Scientific and Technical Information Program 1992

Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328


Space resources must be used to support life on the Moon and exploration of Mars. Just as the pioneers applied the tools they brought with them to resources they found along the way rather than trying to haul all their needs over a long supply line, so too must space travelers apply their high technology tools to local resources.

The pioneers refilled their water barrels at each river they forded; moonbase inhabitants may use chemical reactors to combine hydrogen brought from Earth with oxygen found in lunar soil to make their water. The pioneers sought temporary shelter under trees or in the lee of a cliff and built sod houses as their first homes on the new land; settlers of the Moon may seek out lava tubes for their shelter or cover space station modules with lunar regolith for radiation protection. The pioneers moved further west from their first settlements, using wagons they had built from local wood and pack animals they had raised; space explorers may use propellant made at a lunar bass to take them on to Mars.

The concept for this report was developed at a NASA-sponsored summer study in 1984. The program was held on the Scripps campus of the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), under the auspices of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). It was jointly managed by the California Space Institute and the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, under the direction of the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology (OAST) at NASA Headquarters. The study participants (listed in the addendum) included a group of 18 university teachers and researchers (faculty fellows) who were present for the entire 10-week period and a larger group of attendees from universities, Government, and industry who came for a series of four 1 - week workshops.
The organization of this report follows that of the summer study. Space Resources consists of a brief overview and four detailed technical volumes: (1) Scenarios; (2) Energy, Power, and Transport; (3) Materials; (4) Social Concerns. Although many of the included papers got their impetus from workshop discussions, most have been written since then, thus allowing the authors to base new applications on established information and tested technology. All these papers have been updated to include the authors' current work.

This volume-Materials-covers a number of technical and policy issues regarding the materials in space (mainly lunar and asteroidal) which can be used to support space operations. The first of the three parts of this volume discusses the nature and locationof these materials, exploaration strategy, evaluation criteria, and the technical means to collect or mine these materials. A baseline lunar mine and the basics of asteroid mining are presented and critiqued. The second part discusses the beneficiation of ores and the extraction of such materials as oxygen, metals, and the makings of concrete. The final part of the volume discusses the manufacturing and fabrication of nonterrestrial procucts. Considered are the economic tradeoffs between bringing needed products from Earth and making these products on location in space.

This is certainly not the first report to urge the utilization of space resources in the development of space activities. In fact, Space Resources may be seen as the third of a trilogy of NASA Special Publications reporting such ideas arising from similar studies. It has been preceded by Space Settlements: A Design Study (NASA SP-413) and Space Resources and Space Settlements (NASA SP-428).

And other contemporaneous reports have responded to the same themes. The National Commission on Space, led by Thomas Paine in Pioneering the Space Frontier, and the NASA task force led by astronaut Sally Ride, in Leadership and America's Future in Space, also emphasize expansion of the space infrastructure; more detailed exploration of the Moon, Mars and astreroids: an early start on the development of the technology necessary for using space resources; and systematic development of the skills necessary for long-term human presence in space.

Our report does not represent any Government-authorized view or official NASA policy. NASA's official response to these challenging opportunities must be found in the reports of its Office of Exploration, which was established in 1987. That office's report, released in November of 1989, of a 90-day study of possible plans for human exploration of the Moon and Mars is NASA's response to the new initiative proposed by President Bush on July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon. "First for the coming decade, for the 1990's Space Station Freedom, our critical next step in all of our space endeavors. And next, for the new century, back to the Moon, back to the future, and this time, back to stay. And then a journey into tomorrow, a journey to another planet, a manned mission to Mars." This report Space Resources, offers substantiation for NASA's bid to carry out that new initiative.


Table of Contents

Curator: Al Globus
If you find any errors on this page contact Al Globus.
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