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Guest: Dr. Kevin Cannon; Topics: Lunar resources and mining, Martian resources, asteroid resources and water, policy, ethical and legal concerns, ISRU and more.
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We welcomed Dr. Kevin Cannon to the program for a 65 minute discussion regarding lunar resources and mining plus the same for Mars and asteroids. We had multiple listener phone calls asking a variety of questions on lunar ice, the depth of the ice, other lunar resources, asteroid mining and finding water on asteroids plus similar questions for Mars. Dr. Cannon started the discussion by responding to my question about confirming the location and quantity of lunar resources, specifically water on the Moon. In his response, he talked about resources at both the south and north poles of the Moon, the depth of the lunar water ice and the concern about the quantity at various depths. He mentioned upcoming NASA missions to do more research on resource and water quantity. One mission in particular that he mentioned was the NASA VIPER Mission. According to the NASA VIPER website, VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover) "is a mobile robot that will go to the South Pole of the Moon to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of water ice that could eventually be harvested to sustain human exploration on the Moon, Mars — and beyond. VIPER represents the first resource mapping mission on another celestial body." VIPPER is scheduled for 2023. Dr. Cannon mentioned additional smaller lunar missions plus he talked about confirming that they an make propellant from lunar water ice.
Fremont John was the first caller. John was asking questions about how deep one would have to drill down to measure the water and maybe other frozen volatiles. Kevin and John had quite the discussion about layers and how far down to drill amid expected finds. John then referred us to Kevin's blog, "Planetary Intelligence." Josh also linked to it on our blog for this program. Our guest talked about getting O2 from regolith and said if it proved less than economical to get O2 from the water ice, getting it from regolith was a possibility. Kevin talked briefly about the high temperature processes that would have to be used to get it from regolith. John and Kevin talked about ore bodies on the Moon as contrasted to ore bodies on Earth. Kevin also referenced iron, titanium, aluminum, He3, plus other resources. Listen to what he said about mining He3.
Dr. Doug called to ask about LCross finding of 5.6% water ice. Kevin explained the origins of this percentage plus he talked about other lunar surface experiments that have either shown more or less of a percentage based on LCross. Don't miss this part of the discussion because Kevin provided us with probable water ice percentages from elsewhere on the Moon. When talking about PGM, especially those that are rare on Earth, he talked about how to beneficiate them or turn them into usable products.
Sharon in Seattle sent in a note about depleting lunar resources leaving some bad consequences for the Moon and/or Earth. For sure you want to hear Kevin's answer to her question. Toward the end of his comments, Kevin offered us his personal opinion regarding these issues and concerns. Let us know what you think by posting your thoughts on our blog for this show.
Marshall called wanting to talk asteroids and the amount of water on all asteroids. Kevin talked about the difference in lunar water from asteroid water. The subject then changed to Trojan asteroids and the upcoming Lucy mission. Listen to what he said were some of the changes one finds the further out one goes in looking at asteroids. I asked Kevin about a possible difference in resource on the lighter area of the side of the Moon we see as compared to resources on the backside of the Moon. Kevin talked about the lighter areas and the highland terrain. In the end, he said the resources and distribution patterns would be the same for both sides of the Moon.
Kim called to discuss young lunar craters, impact melt, the floor of young lunar craters and thorium hot spots of which there are four. Our guest had lots to say in his discussion with Kim. He introduced us to the Brecchia lens type body and textured rock. After his discussion with Kim, Kevin turned to Mars for the remaining few minutes of our program. He said that Mars was richer than the Moon and larger. The fact that it had some kind of an atmosphere made a difference, also that CO2 was in the atmosphere. He talked about carbon in rock and contributing to Martian resources.
Ft. Worth John called to talk about PGM and asteroids plus further out bodies as compared to NEOs. Dr. Doug sent in an email following up from his previous phone call. He wanted to know about nickel-iron meteorites on Mars and would this be a source of unoxidized metals during the early phase of Mars settlement. From here, Kevin was asked for his thoughts on planetary protection keeping Musk or human spaceflight from Mars. Make sure your listen to what he said about planetary protection, searching for life and related issues. Hint: We need to push up the timeline for searching for life.
Our guest offered us concluding comments. One thing he pointed out was that many think using space resources is science fiction but that is not the case. It will happen much faster than most believe. At the end I mentioned policy which we did not talk about during our program. He suggested policy needed to catch up with reality.
Please post your comments/questions for Dr. Cannon on our blog for this program. You can reach our guest through me or his faculty website page at The Colorado School of Mines.