Lunar Mining for Titanium

Researchers have found that there may be plenty of titanium on the moon, up to ten times as large a proportion in a certain type of ore as in the same ore on Earth.

From Moon Daily:

The discovery was made thanks to a camera aboard the US Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which swept the surface of the Moon, scrutinising it in seven different light wavelengths…

They established this signature thanks to rock samples brought back to Earth by Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972 and images of the area around the mission’s landing site by the Hubble space telescope.

“Looking up at the Moon, its surface appears painted with shades of grey, at least to the human eye,” explained Robinson.

“But with the right instruments, the Moon can appear colourful.

“The maria [lunar plains] appear reddish in some places and blue in others.

“Although subtle, these colour variations tell us important things about the chemistry and evolution of the lunar surface. They indicate the titanium and iron abundance, as well as the maturity of a lunar soil.”

Titanium is as strong as steel but nearly half as light, which makes it a highly desired — and also very expensive — metal.

On Earth, titanium is found, at the very most, in around one percent of similar types of ore. But the new map found abundances in the lunar maria that range from about one percent to 10 percent, the conference organisers said in a press release. In the lunar highlands, abundance was around one percent…

“Lunar titanium is mostly found in the mineral ilmenite, a compound containing iron, titanium and oxygen,” they said.

“Future miners living and working on the Moon could break down ilmenite to liberate these elements.

“In addition, Apollo data shows that titanium-rich minerals are more efficient at retaining particles from the solar wind, such as helium and hydrogen. These gases would also provide a vital resource for future human inhabitants of lunar colonies.”

They use British spelling! My favourite. This is cool, mostly because it shows that we still have lots to learn about the moon; there might be a lot more value there than we know now, making it worthwhile to go visit (again).

 

 

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