NASA probe identifies shallow moon metals
Iron, titanium could provide lunar base building materials Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – July 15, 2020
Last updated 7/22/2020 at 4:44am
As NASA continues to prepare for mankind to set foot on the moon again in 2024, nearly fifty years after the last Apollo mission, unmanned missions continue to reveal more about our closest neighbor and its potential for habitation and resource development.
Despite six successful Apollo moon landing missions, very little of the surface has been explored close up and our knowledge of the moon is limited. To put into perspective the amount of the surface of the moon mankind has traversed is comparable of driving from San Francisco to neighboring San Jose in an attempt to view all of North and South America.
Over the last decade, NASA and other agencies from around the world have set their sights on the moon and have created detailed maps of its surface to understand both the moon's past and its future.
Building on previous missions by both American and Japanese agencies, NASA revealed the latest information from the Miniature Radio Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument on NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft whose primary mission was to search for possible sources of water at the moon's poles. Noting differentiated resistance to the radio burst bouncing off the lunar surface, researchers have determined there are dense layers of iron and titanium near the surface. Based on rock samples brought back from the Apollo missions, these important metals were previously thought to be scarce on or near the surface of the moon.
Working much like the coils of a metal detector, a very expensive and sophisticated metal detector, not only did the Mini-RF find indications of these metals, but in some cases, rocks that are more abundant in these metals than many found on Earth. It's likely you won't see astronauts jumping out of their moon buggy and picking up titanium rich samples, but the metal is much closer to the surface than once thought.
This doesn't mean the next missions to the moon will be staking claims or digging up ore, but it does show there is a greater viability for sustainability. While iron will likely be used in building materials, titanium will help develop lightweight alloys that provide not only strength, but heat and electrical conductivity.
These findings will only bolster the need for further exploration as a cost-effective means to build permanent habitation on the moon and possibly provide a low-gravity base for propelling mankind into space beyond.