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Study: Lunar Colonization Could be Surprisingly Cheap — But There’s a Catch

posted: 07/21/15
by: Danny Clemens
Surface of the moon
hkeita/thinkstock

NASA could dramatically cut the cost of returning humans to the moon if it is willing to mine and sell the moon's natural resources, according to a study commissioned by the agency.

The Space Frontier Foundation-penned study encourages NASA to mine the moon's hydrogen for the "commercial production of cryogenic propellant". The report estimates that there are 10 billion cubic meters of water on the moon's poles -- equivalent to Utah's Great Salt Lake. The mining operation could potentially reduce the cost of sending humans to the moon by 90%.

First, however, NASA must send robotic scouts to confirm that the polar water is even harvestable. "This will be a complex operation requiring a period of growth, trial and error, failure, repair, and maintenance as the process matures in operations and procedures," the report concedes.

A lunar propellant production facility and fuel depot could be significantly beneficial to future missions to Mars, as well as routine launches carried out by the Department of Defense, according to the report.

Despite the dramatic proposed savings from propellent production, the overall cost of the lunar colony doesn't come cheap: NASA will still need to cough up nearly $40 billion to establish the colony.

"This is the way that America will settle the final frontier, save taxpayers money and usher in a new era of economic growth and STEM innovation," said Space Frontier Foundation's Chairman Jeff Feige.

Click here to read the full report

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Lunar Colony
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