Solar Towers For Lunar Energy and Microwave Moon Mining

NASA NIAC has an update on the Lunar Polar Mining Outpost (LPMO). It is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon.

The first invention, Sun Flower™ stems from a new insight into lunar topography. Multi-kilometer landing areas in lunar polar regions are likely ice-rich regolith in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 100s of meters. Deploying reflectors on towers a few hundred meters tall (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous solar power.

he second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining uses a combination of radio frequency, microwave, and infrared radiation to heat permafrost and other types of ice deposits with a depth-controlled heating profile.

RGD mining will allow the development of a practical system that can be constructed on a mobile platform to enable the use of a mixture of different types of radiant energy with different penetration depths to control the release of water vapor from hard lunar permafrost in such a way that it can be trapped and captured by a water collection system. Although microwave extraction methods have been proposed in the past they have typically required prior excavation of substrate material or did not include methods to prevent re-trapping of water by cold regolith. By using a multi-frequency radiant system, RGD provides a variable heating profile that sublimates water vapor in layers from the top down and encourages evolved water to migrate into cryotraps in the vehicle while minimizing refreezing of the water vapor in the surrounding substrate.

A 5-ton RGD mining vehicle and would each be capable of harvesting 100 times its mass per year in water.

Written by Brian Wang,

7 thoughts on “Solar Towers For Lunar Energy and Microwave Moon Mining”

  1. I'm waiting to for someone to complain that taking water from the south pole will imbalance the moon, setting it spinning out of control and eventually splitting in half with the closer half hurtling into the Earth.

  2. So why is this useful? Why not just put the solar arrays above the edge and run some power cables to the bottom? Some hundred meters should be no problem.

  3. Strip mining is removing a surface layer, so you can get to an ore or coal beneath, then replacing the surface material back. This is more like baking the surface to remove the water, but leaving the rocky part in place. It's a kinder, gentler extraction process.

    Keep in mind that the entire Moon is covered in an average 5 meter layer of broken rock and dirt blasted around by repeated impacts. It's not like mining will change that much – it is already rubble. Also the polar regions are sideways to us. Any albedo change isn't visible to Earthlings. Those regions *never get sunlight* which is how ice can survive. So they are never lit to where we can see a change.

  4. You're lighting up the moon surface so that it can be massively strip mined and it's albedo changed. If people are upset about Skylink swarms in orbit, this is going to really upset them.

  5. I like this, clearly, but think that the whole surface solar array plus tower plus reflector is not for larger scale, if for no other reason than that it is dedicated to the spot it is on. If you plan even short distance transmission lines or power beaming, the need for solar cells in the perpetual darkness goes away. We should start now!

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