NEEP602 Course Notes (Fall 1997)
Resources from Space


Lecture #12: Legacy of the Baby Boomers!

Title: Resources of the Moon: Indigenous

  Artist's conception (Pat Rawlings) of a Lunar Base (What's wrong with this picture? No radiation protection)
  Artist's (Pat Rawlings) conception of a Lunar Base (better).

o Having been on the surface and sampled lunar materials (ground truth), we know a great deal about the Moon's resources that could support long term settlement.
o Galileo, and Clementine - and some direct as well as indirect geochemical sensing from the Earth and Apollo lunar orbits. Stand by for Lunar Prospector, hopefully in 1997.

  Figure: AS 17 152 23311 Full Moon/Full self sufficiency needed!
  Figure: AS 17 134 20509 Living on the lunar surface

Factors affecting the accessibility of minerals on the Moon
o Absence of water!!!!
o Original rock composition
o Igneous differentiation (less extreme than on Earth due to absence of water)
o Regolith formation
o Fluidized sorting
o Other ?


Non-metallic materials required for lunar construction
o Regolith cover for insulation and radiation protection
o Road aggregate (as a by-product from mining and processing of regolith)
o Dry compacted regolith fines (Desai, 1993)
o Sintered or cast regolith-based structural materials
o Regolith/metal fiber composites through thermal liquefaction (Desai, 1993)

Relatively undisturbed regolith surface.
  Moderately disturbed regolith surface.


Figure: AS17 134 20394 Aggregate-rich regolith near Powell Crater.
Figure: AS17 146 22429 Local layered structure to regolith at Van Serg Crater

Metallic materials required for lunar operations and manufacturing.

  Lunar Soil Composition
Comparison of compositions of lunar soil and the Earth's crust


Note: The overall availability of potential resources on a planet represents a critical baseline - if its not there, forget about it. Locating economically extractable concentrations of such resources, however, constitutes the difference between a potential resource and a commodity. In the following outline, the indicated concentration (grade) of a particular resource is in relation to the concentration in its best known host.

o Native Iron-1 vol% in some mature regolith (also from meteorite debris, about 0.1% of regolith)
o Nickel and Cobalt
o Platinum Group, Ge, Re, and other siderophile elements, e.g. Au

o TiO2-13 wt% from ilmenite (some in basaltic regolith)
o Oxygen and iron (FeO-22 wt% in ilmenite-rich Basalts) can be by-products

o Al2O3-35 wt% and SiO2-45 wt% from CaAl2Si2O8 (anorthite, the dominant mineral in lunar anorthosite)
o Silicon (Aluminum)
o Oxygen
o Sodium
Silicon Production for solar cells, micro-electro-mechanical devices, and other chip applications (Seboldt, et al, 1993, in Lewis, et al, 1993)):
o Heat regolith or pyroclastic glass in the presence of F (flourine), producing flourosilane (SiF4)
o Extract Si (metal) through plasma processing
o An intermediate step involing the production of SiH4 (silane) may be required
o Other metal fluorides can be reduced by processing with K (potassium) to recycle F if desired.

o Cr2O3-0.5-1 wt% from (Fe,Mg)(Cr,Al,Ti)2O4 (spinel in regolith)
o MgO- wt% from (Mg,Fe)2SiO4 (olivine)
Note: Significant concentrations of olivine near the base of near surface basalt flows were noted and sampled at the Apollo 12 exploration site in Mare Cognitum.
Other useful elements
o P2O5-0.5 wt% in phosphate minerals in KREEP
o Na2O-1.2 wt% and K2O-3.6 wt% in KREEP
o Rare Earth Elements, Hf, and Zr concentrated in KREEP related materials

Indigenous volatiles
Oxygen from pyroclastics (orange and green soils) (Allen, et al, 1996)
o Orange soil provided a yield of 5% when reacted with hydrogen at 1050oC, with over 90% of this yield in 3 hrs.
o Yield from lunar soils, in general, is a linear and direct function of iron content
o Chlorine and fluorine from pyroclastics (orange and green soils)
o Zn, Mn, Cu, Pb, and other chalcophile elements if processed in large volumes.




In situ orange soil at Shorty Crater

Orange soil beads in transmitted light

Large deposits of orange soil along southwestern rim of Serenitatis


o Sulfur from FeS (troilite) in basaltic regolith

Mineral concentrations possible in differentiated cooling units in the maria
o Titanium (ilmenite), chromium (chromite), iron and sulfur (native iron and troilite)


Sullivan, et al., 1991, Using Space Resources, NASA Johnson Space Center, 27p.


1. Taking the composition of any Apollo 11 or 17 Ti-rich basalt flow, describe possible mineral enrichments and their layered sequence due to slow cooling and gravitational differentiation in an appropriately thick flow.

2. Do modern applications of rare earth elements suggest that it might be worth while to seek concentrations of such elements for use on the Moon or in Space rather than continue to depend on terrestrial sources? Explain in some detail.

3. List and provide summary descriptions of potential additives necessary to sustain lunar regolith and/or hydroponic based agriculture.


Alllen, C.C., Morris, R.V., and McKay, D.S., 1996 Oxygen Extraction from Lunar Soils and Pyroclastic Glass, Journal of Geophysical Research, 101, 26,085-26,095.

Criswell, D.R., 1996, Luner Solar Power System: Review of the technology base of an operational LSP System, 47th International Astronautical Congress, October 7-11, Beijing (IAF-96-R.2.04

Desai, C.S., et al, 1993, Development and Mechanical Properties of Structural Materials from Lunar Simulants, in Lewis, J., Matthews, M.S., and Guerrieri, M.L., 1993, Editors, Resources of Near-Earth Space, University of Arizona Press.

Haskin, L.A., et al, 1993, A Geochemical Assessment of Possible Lunar Ore Formation, in Lewis, J., Matthews, M.S., and Guerrieri, M.L., 1993, Editors, Resources of Near-Earth Space, University of Arizona Press.

Heiken, G., et al, 1991, Lunar Source Book, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 736p.

Lewis, J., Matthews, M.S., and Guerrieri, M.L., 1993, Editors, Resources of Near-Earth Space, University of Arizona Press.

Sullivan, et al., 1991, Using Space Resources, NASA Johnson Space Center, 27p.

Taylor and Haskin

Back to Syllabus
University of Wisconsin logo

University of Wisconsin Fusion Technology Institute  · 439 Engineering Research Building  · 1500 Engineering Drive  · Madison WI 53706-1609  · Telephone: (608) 263-2352  · Fax: (608) 263-4499  · Email:

Copyright © 2003 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. For feedback or accessibility issues, contact
This page last updated August 21, 2003.