Moon: Industrial Complex

Moon: Industrial Complex


This episode is sponsored by Brilliant. The Moon has beckoned to humanity throughout
history, and it will soon be our ladder, extending our reach further into the cosmos. Today we’ll be looking at the Moon, and
how it might in the century to come serve as a vital manufacturing and fuel refining
depot and stepping stone. Interestingly though it’s biggest role in
the near-term will likely be focused on the development of space closer to home, in orbit
of Earth as the Moon is. To see why, we first need to ask what the
Moon has to offer and how we will go about getting stuff off the Moon. That’s a key point because while the Moon
has plenty of resources, it has little Earth does not have vastly more of. It’s also where all our stuff is, including
our factories and scientists and engineers and everyone else. This would lead many to think we really have
no interest in the Moon and is one reason folks often suggesting bypassing it in favor
of Mars or other planets. And yet the biggest problem with Earth is
that it has so much stuff–as in, mass. All that mass generates a gravity well you
have to claw your way out of to get into space. It also means there’s a thick atmosphere
clinging to our world that makes it even harder to launch things, though easier to land stuff,
much easier actually than on the Moon. The Moon has no atmosphere to slow ships or
cargoes down as they approach. It also has surface gravity barely a seventh
of Earth’s, and an escape velocity of just 2400 meters per second or 5400 miles per hour. Quite fast but barely a fifth of Earth’s,
and it takes less than a fifth as much fuel to lift something off it. Gravity wells are not your friend in space
but they get far worse as we pile mass on. A rocket using a liquid hydrogen fuel to escape
Earth might need 12 tons of fuel to get a given payload away. Whereas on the Moon it would only require
.7 tons to to get it off the Moon. It would be even cheaper in terms of not needing
anything like all the extra mass and equipment needed to get that spacecraft off Earth reliably
and safely, like fairings, those protective nose cones on rockets for plowing through
the air, which of course the Moon lacks. Of course there’s precious little hydrogen
on the Moon, and it’s mostly tied up in water-ice which we probably want to use for
other things, and there’s obviously no ready supplies of kerosene or other hydrocarbon
fuel types either. So we’ll need to consider other types of
fuels, and for that matter if we even want to use fuels or opt instead for alternatives
like a lunar space elevator or a mass driver. Space Elevators are nice in that they don’t
require much power to operate, but they do take some and have other problems we’ll
get to in a bit. Making chemical fuel or running a mass driver
of the electromagnetic catapult or rail gun variety both are energy hogs, and so we’ll
need to ask how we’ll go about getting power on the Moon, all of which we’ll also get
to in a bit. There are vast amounts of Silicon, Oxygen,
Aluminum, and Iron on the Moon and those last three can be used to make good fuels. Of course you mostly need fuel to get stuff
off the Moon, so let’s ask what the Moon offers us that we want to take away from it
and where we want to take it. Fiction often shows us moon bases but tend
to be a bit unclear on what they’re really for, and what they’re not for is growing
food. At least not for exporting. You might grow food on the Moon for local
consumption, as opposed to bringing it from Earth, but you’d probably only use it for
feeding folks in space during the earliest days and you just happened to find it easier
to expand local production a bit rather than setting up space farms. We’ll examine that more in the upcoming
episode “Moon: Crater Cities” Part of the problem though is that the Moon
has really long days, a month long, half of which is night which is a long time for plants
to go without illumination. What light it gets is also harsh, not filtered
by an atmosphere removing the frequencies more harmful to plants and equipment. You could grow food there, but either need
to provide supplemental lighting or pick species that are adapted to handle darkness for long
periods. You probably need to provide shading too,
as many plants wouldn’t fare well in two weeks of perpetual noon-time sun. All-in-all, it makes more sense to use large
rotating habitats in orbit for food growth instead, especially as these can be made vastly
cheaper than those rotating habitats meant for people to live in, such as the O’Neill
Cylinder, and we’ll be discussing those and life inside them in a couple weeks. Of course you probably do want to grow food
there initially, not to mention source your rock, air, water, and equipment for those
space farms from the moon, where you can. Some plants you may want to grow locally for
aesthetics or as specialty fresh foods, like fruit trees or herbs. These plants may also be used to recycle waste
products of the colonists. If you are growing food on the moon you need
power for artificial lighting or rather significant usage of orbital mirrors to send light down,
which is certainly doable and we may as well begin our discussion of power with solar as
an option. We’ve got three ways we can use sunlight
and three places to obtain it from. We can use it for plants or other processes
that directly make use of light, like a solar kiln for smelting metal or rock, or we can
use it for power generation, either solar thermal or photoelectric. Photoelectric being the solar panels we’re
used to, while solar thermal is where you use the concentrated sunlight to heat something
and run a standing heat engine, such as a steam turbine, like we use in conventional
power plants. Solar panels are a bit problematic on the
Moon because you have that two-week dark phase, though they don’t have to worry about cloudy
weather and there are many craters whose rims experience longer daylight periods. Indeed one of the proposed methods to maximize
the exposure of solar panels is to hang them like curtains from tall towers, following
the sun, extending the daylight as the sun sets. For the same reason, polar craters are also
logical base locations due to the extremely long daylight possible on their crater rims
and from the ice we hope to find at their eternally dark bottoms. And again we’ll look at that more in Crater
Cities. On the photosynthesis side of things, those
extended light periods experienced on crater rims might be sufficient to allow plants there
to remain healthy as opposed to two full weeks of darkness, and would at least cut down on
supplemental lighting. These are good spots for initial space farming
though obviously are in a limited supply. Eventually, a lunar industrial complex will
be producing so much power for metals refining, chemical processing, and manufacturing that
a few small farms worth of LED lights won’t really amount to much in your power budget. But in the end the vast majority of food production
will be done on large factory farms and food processing facilities in space once the cost
of landing a shipment of groceries is less than your local cost. Similar to how you might have an orange tree
or small garden, but your not locally sourcing a cake recipe. But back to solar panels, modern, efficient
ones are rather hard and expensive to fabricate locally from ISRU, or in situ resource utilization,
the term used for basically living off the land. Though that might get far easier down the
road, the raw sunlight, heavy on ultraviolet, and damaging moon dust and micrometeorites,
might be rather rough on such panels. There are designs for less-efficient, simple
solar panels made from ISRU materials that can almost be paved on the lunar surface. The problem with these is that they need to
be cleaned of lunar dust frequently if they are to be located anywhere near a mining base
or rocket landing pad. They are also fixed so they can’t follow
the sun, and because there is no atmosphere to refract or reflect the sunlight like on
Earth, this further reduces their efficiency. Fabricating more rugged or structural ISRU
solar panels, such as those we discussed hanging like curtains, will take more resources and
cost more, but would allow sun-following. Lastly, while concentrated solar may allow
better use of your solar panels, they can have thermal management problems in space,
further adding to their cost and complexity. Adding to solar power’s short-comings is
the limitation of battery capacity to function through the night, away from the poles. Solar thermal on the other hand is particularly
nice on the moon because big mirrors and parabolic dishes are easily fabricated, they can just
be shiny bits of aluminum or iron, neither in short supply on the moon. Additionally, there’s no air, and heat can
only be lost via radiation, convection, and conduction, so you can turn your mirrors onto
giant blocks of basalt – which is plentiful on the moon and a great medium for heat storage
and they won’t cool off as much at night as it’s just the vacuum above them, not
air or water also acting as a coolant by convection. This is especially true if we cut blocks of
basalt and basically stick them in a thermos, vacuum on all sides. So no convective losses from the vacuum and
only minor conductive losses in the thermos and radiative losses can be minimized with
a reflective barrier. Quite the thermal battery. That’s a bit sophisticated, so early on
you might just use a chunk of basalt up off the ground on insulating feet to minimize
heat loss to conduction, or in a pit where you kept a bowl up on feet and filled it with
gravel. You can even skip that for focusing light
on a big chunk of basalt but you’d lose more heat to conduction into the neighboring
rock. We call this approach a Thermal Wadi, as opposed
to Wadis in the desert, dry spots that fill with water in the rainy season, in this case
we fill them with light and heat in the sunny season, every month. Now we can attach those blocks to a heat engine
and have a nice power supply when the sun goes down. Needless to say, you can also use these to
keep bases warm when the sun goes down, or for that matter cold when the sun is up. You can also be using solar kilns in this
role as well as their role of melting down metal or rock, and solar kilns work better
on the moon from the lack of atmosphere anyway. Using these approaches lets you avoid needing
to have a month-long production cycle that is on during the day and off during the night,
or at least lets you avoid a total shut down at night, though we often do long on and off
production cycles in some industries, such as metal smelting, here on Earth, and could
on the Moon if we needed to, and we might early on as we need to start very simple. It’s not very hard then, with some fairly
basic infrastructure, to get major metal production going on the moon and it can be massively
scaled up. You benefit a lot from having clever robots
do the work rather than people but you don’t actually have to live on the Moon to work
there. The signal lag time from Earth is just a heartbeat
or two, enough time to be noticeable and irritating but close enough to allow remote control of
facilities and robots. Now I said there were three basic ways we
could use sunlight but also three places we could get it from. The first is obviously the surface of the
Moon, and the second would be advanced power production by nuclear fusion, where sunlight
comes from in the first place, but while we’ll be looking at nuclear fission as a power source
and ship drive today, we’ll skip fusion as a topic we’ve covered more elsewhere. Our third way is just to remember that the
Moon has very little gravity and no atmosphere. That makes producing power satellites or mirrors
and getting them into orbit a good deal easier, and it would not be hard to coordinate those
to get power or light to places when it was dark outside, scaled up enough you could even
create a 24 hour day cycle but we’ll skip that for today. See the Power Satellites episode or Winter
on Venus for more discussion of those options. However, while putting stuff in orbit of the
Moon isn’t too hard, that low gravity and lack of wind makes it very easy to erect massive
structures. I mentioned those tall towers and putting
our solar panels on them. Building some super-high, strong, and skinny
tower on the Moon is very easy. Indeed it is so easy that we can build a space
elevator on the Moon out of existing materials, not needing the very strong materials like
Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes an Earth Elevator would take. Sounds like a great idea but there is one
problem, the Earth. The Moon perturbs the orbits of objects around
the Earth somewhat. But the Earth has 81 times the mass of the
Moon, and it perturbs orbits around the Moon a lot. If you were to build an elevator on Earth,
you’d put its center of mass in a geostationary orbit. That’s where it will orbit the planet at
the same rate the planet turns, so it will stay directly above your chosen spot on the
equator. The altitude of a geostationary orbit is about
1/10th of the way to the Moon, so the Moon’s gravity does perturbs the orbit some but only
to a degree we can manage and compensate for. If the Moon had a nice short day like we do,
it would work about the same there. But the Moon is tidally locked to Earth, so
its day is a month long, and a luna-stationary orbit would have to be a month long as well. That means it would have to orbit the Moon
at an altitude that takes it 1/4 of the way back to the Earth, a distance where the Earth
actually exerts far more force on your satellite than the Moon does. There is the L1 Lagrange point between the
Earth and Moon, where the forces exactly balance each other, and it’s only about 1/7th of
the way back to the Earth. The problem is, it’s not stable. If your satellite drifts off the Earth-Moon
axis, gravity will pull it back, but if it drifts either way along that axis, it will
start falling toward whichever body it’s now closer to. The L2 Lagrange point above the far side of
the Moon is similarly unstable. The only stable Lagrange points, where you
could put a satellite in a true luna-stationary orbit, are the L4 and L5 points that respectively
lead and lag the Moon in orbit around the Earth. Unfortunately, those are actually as far from
the Moon as the Earth is—not very helpful when you’re trying to build an elevator. Now again neither is stable either, and while
we can use some of the tricks we discussed in space elevators, like multiple tethers
reaching up at angles to a common terminus, and also have some options for polar elevators,
it’s not a great option. Sky hooks, also known as rotavators, work
a bit better since without an atmosphere and with a lower gravity and orbital speeds you
can have one swing right down and snag something off the ground. We looked at those in detail in early episodes
of our Upward Bound series, and followed them up with a device called a mass driver, think
giant space gun. Those can work on Earth but are problematic
because you need to reach higher speeds and you have to use an entirely enclosed runway
or barrel to keep the air out and also have to have the muzzle sticking up tens of kilometers
above the ground to avoid your vehicle slamming out of the barrel into the atmosphere at re-entry
speeds. Needless to say, it’s also quite an engineering
feet to build a tower tall enough to hold that muzzle up. That is far easier on the moon, what with
the low gravity and lack of wind in the atmosphere shoving on that tower, but you don’t need
to bother because there’s no atmosphere you need to get above. You can just run a long metal track on the
ground to build up speed and let go once you hit orbital speed. All of those are options that work on the
Moon, and the mass driver is probably the easiest and best for most applications, but
you might not even bother since again, it doesn’t take too much fuel to get stuff
off the Moon and as we’ll get to in a moment, that’s likely to be the main industrial
production of the Moon, or one of the big ones anyway. I should note though that landing stuff on
the Moon is a good deal trickier if you want to avoid using rockets, there’s no air to
help you slow down. Trying to rely on sheer friction, like a runway,
is not a good idea since you’re still moving very fast and safely coordinating that would
be dubious. The skyhooks are nice options for slowing
down, the elevator too, and one could potentially harpoon a ship like we discussed in Colonizing
Ceres or even use some corridor runway filled with low-density gas for breaking,
Of course fuel works pretty well and I did mention that would be a big export. You can make fuel out of water, with enough
power, you just break it down into hydrogen and oxygen then burn those as your fuels,
but we don’t know how much water-ice is on the moon and we probably don’t want to
be using that up, so it might work okay in the early days as a short term fuel but not
something we will use in the long term. We will need to use common lunar ISRU materials
and first among those available is oxygen, of which the moon is roughly 40% by mass,
and it will practically be a waste product of our industrial activities, as things like
iron and aluminum will be found as oxides we need to seperate to get the pure metal. ALICE, Aluminum-Ice rockets, using nano-aluminum
powder and water ice are tempting but again it uses up water, or more specifically hydrogen,
not ideal for heavy space usage. But we can use aluminum and liquid oxygen
as a monopropellant gel or as a bi-propellant, and also aluminum, iron, and oxygen, also
known as thermite, and of course Magnesium, which also has a very energetic reaction with
oxygen, is readily available on the moon. None of these is exactly ideal as a main ship
propellant, though they do work well enough and work very well for things like station-keeping
and orbital maneuvering, which is going to be the biggest fuel usage in a robust Cis-Lunar
Economy, where most of the ships will be moving around Earth-Moon orbital space and which
will probably be collecting a growing number of space habitats, power stations, factories,
farms and so on as time rolls on. The Moon however is also rich in uranium and
thorium, and noticeably lacking in delicate ecologies, so it’s a great place to build
fission reactors as well as radioisotope thermal generators, RTGs, one of our favorite electric
supplies for spacecraft. You can also build some disgustingly simple
nuclear rocket drives that, while filthy as heck, enough that it would probably be a war
crime to use them in Earth’s atmosphere or low-orbit, do well enough in deep space
or on the Moon. Nuclear makes a nice power supply for those
dark weeks on a moon base and RTGs, mostly made of radioisotopes like Strontium-90 or
Plutonium-238, would make excellent power supplies for spaceships and satellites and
moon rovers where solar wasn’t a good option. Of course we also have the RTT, Radioisotope
Thermal Thruster, which differs from an RTG somewhat. An RTG uses thermocouples to turn the radioactive
heat decay into electricity. They are very durable and reliable with no
moving parts to break or wear down, and are easy to build, though very inefficient at
conversion, usually under 10%. The RTT, or Poodle Thruster, is the same;
it just uses that heat to produce rocket thrust instead. These unfortunately can not be throttled in
their thermal power output, RTGs and RTTs produce a constant power supply, though by
changing how much propellant you use you can throttle your thrust, though it slowly weakens
as the material decays, dropping to half after one half life. And of course you have all that lunar oxygen
you can use for propellant. This is also not bad for station keeping or
objects that run back and forth constantly, like a shuttle between the Moon’s orbital
Station and Earth’s, assuming anyone lets you bring it near Earth, though they’re
not too dangerous if one gets wrecked and crashes on Earth and aren’t ideal bomb material
either. We’ve never truly had a nuclear economy
on Earth, even in those places where fission makes up a large part of the power generation,
so it’s a bit hard to really state how much of an industrial engine that is. The Moon, and space in general, is already
a radiation nightmare so being able to run massive nuclear torch drive ships and atomic-powered
foundries, smelters, and mass-drivers is a big deal. If you go all in on that you can start turning
out aluminum and steel at ridiculous outputs, and that gives you the massive construction
capacity you need for building up a true space infrastructure. Safety really is not an issue, but we already
detailed non-atomic options like solar kilns if we need them instead. Nuclear is more attractive in many regards
and could turn the Moon into an Industrial Nuclear Juggernaut. So that covers fuel. Fuel for station-keeping and running around
the Cis-Lunar volume of space. But fuel, be it chemical fuels like Aluminum
or nuclear rockets, that can also be used for running ships back and forth to Mars or
the Asteroid Belt or even out to the icy moons of the gas giants to retrieve ice for water
and fuel if the Moon doesn’t have enough. Oxygen too, the Moon has plenty of it, but
not so much nitrogen or carbon and plants need those too, and these are elements you
can find plentifully out deeper in space, in the form of Nitrogen gas, ammonia-ice and
methane. Methane and ammonia are nice stable sources
of hydrogen, and methane is 25% hydrogen by mass and ammonia is 18%, while water is only
11%, and the remainder is oxygen, which is beyond plentiful on the Moon and as mentioned
likely to be a waste product of many of our other activities there. Hydrogen is a critical item for good space
travel as it’s our best propellant, so with it being rare on the Moon and hard to get
off Earth, your first big supply chain is to get hydrogen back to the Moon. It’s easier to think gas giants, but actually
getting hydrogen off them is no mean feat, and raw hydrogen is not easy to transport,
so methane is your preferred source, off icy bodies, and water and ammonia your nominal
runners up, needless to say both are very handy for other things too. Comets are also nice sources for those. We’re trying to keep ourselves pretty low-tech
and near term in this episode, so we’re focused on the stuff that’s easier to do
now in terms of both existing technology and easy deployment, see Industrializing the Moon
or Battle for the Moon for some of the more high-tech scenarios. But whether you’re running out to the rim
of the Asteroid Belt beyond the frost-line or to the Moons of Jupiter or Saturn, that
gives us some nice imports. Hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen for fuel and
food production, plus all those nice metal ores that are available in the asteroid belt
and in the less mentioned but no less valuable hoard of tiny moons and asteroids around those
two huge planets. You can send crews out to those and setup
bases, but extracting ices, water, methane, or ammonia, is a very easy bulk extraction
process that can probably be done by fairly dumb machines with just a few nudges by controllers
acting remotely from a light hour away, and those Poodle Thrusters make a very nice ship
drive and power source for those kind of remote operations too. Poodle Thrusters do need refilling on propellant
so are good for ice mining, where they can re-stock, and I can well imagine the Moon
mass producing some sort of small probes that fly out to those icy bodies to survey them,
latch onto patches of ice to refuel on propellant and drill samples, and wandered off to the
next target, with bigger collectors following up for extraction. Fundamentally the Moon is a great source for
anything that we want in space in larger bulk quantities, like metal, but it’s also nice
for things like Rare Earth Elements that are often rather rough to get economically on
Earth while also being environmentally friendly, which is fine on the Moon where there’s
no environment to befriend. Not a bad place to get phosphorus either,
something we have a supply problem with here on Earth, and it should be noted that while
it takes a lot of fuel and money to get off Earth, getting home is easy and cheap, so
you probably can export stuff that isn’t precious metals home to Earth. It’s got precious metals too. It’s easy to forget when discussing asteroid
mining and coming home with trillion dollar rocks full of gold and platinum that the Moon
considerably outmasses the entire asteroid belt and has more of every metal than it does,
albeit sometimes harder to extract. But ‘hard’ is a relative concept and all
those wonderful craters and lavatubes make nice bases to hide from micrometeors and the
Sun’s blistering radiation, and that proximity to Earth allows remote control of any device
and rapid extraction or evacuation of personnel back to Earth in emergencies, or sending in
search and rescue teams. Out on Mars or in the Asteroid belt, you’re
in deep trouble if anything goes wrong, because no one is coming and even advice and suggestions
by radio will take an hour to reach you, not a couple seconds. For this reason and many more, the Moon is
a great place to be building up our industrial might for space. Maybe not an ideal place to live though, and
we’ll discuss some options for that in a couple weeks. We were talking a lot today about rocketry
and orbital concepts, and those are quite vital to contemplating space industrialization
but can be rather confusing. If you want to get a better understanding
of this concept and a lot of other core physics, I’d recommend trying out Brilliant’s Course
on Classical Mechanics, which has almost 50 interactive quizzes including one on the Rocket
Equation. Brilliant is an online learning community
with over 60 interactive courses and many quizzes and puzzles, plus Daily Challenges
that help get the brain warmed up for the day. Those Challenges provide a context and framework
that you need to tackle, so that you learn the concepts by applying them, which is the
best way to learn new concepts. Brilliant makes learning fun and easier, and
their online community gives you places to discuss the material or ask questions, and
their mobile apps offline feature lets you take courses even when you’re not getting
a good signal. If you’d like to learn more science, math,
and computer science, go to brilliant.org/IsaacArthur and sign up for free. And also, the first 200 people that go to
that link will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription, so you can solve all the daily
challenges in the archives and access dozens of problem solving courses. So as I mentioned, we’ll be returning to
the Moon in a few weeks to take a look at Crater Cities, but before then we’ll ask
the big question of why life exists next week. We also talked a lot today about how the Moon
might come to be a major colony one day, but would most likely be powering that growth
by providing the raw materials to build vast number of habitats in orbit of Earth, in immense
space stations such as the O’Neill Cylinder, and in two weeks we’ll take a look at what’s
it’s like to be a resident of one of them, in “Life on Board an O’Neill Cylinder”. For alerts when those and other episodes come
out, make sure to subscribe to the channel and hit the notifications bell. And if you enjoyed this episode, hit the like
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visit our website, IsaacArthur.net, to donate to the channel or check out some of the awesome
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100 thoughts on “Moon: Industrial Complex

  1. And this is the reason I had trouble with premise in the tv show 100 where they had to return to earth after seventy years because they were running out of resources!

  2. Common misconception with "food growing in space": plants don't create any mass, they convey it. To get one ton of food, you need to provide once ton of co2, water, phosphor, poop etc. In other words: you need to spend fuel to get your human waste outa space. I don't see how that would be viable.

  3. Nuclear fission was basically mentioned as an afterthought. What a disservice, talking about "all the radioactivity" being "ok" on the moon just because there is no ecology. Nuclear power is clean! It is a safe, reliable, and zero emission power source. The waste is tiny in volume, and is 100% contained. You can stand next to the waste storage casks. Waste is never disbursed into the environment. This is the definition of clean. Furthermore, next gen nuclear reactors can consume today's "waste" as a fuel source. Nuclear plants are like air travel in that they have an extremely good safety record, despite the very seldom but highly-publicized events. Only 76 people have died in all nuclear accidents in history. This is less deaths than any other source of power including, coal, wind, solar, natural gas. The majority (62) of all nuclear deaths in history are associated with Chernobyl, which was a disaster that physically could never occur with modern nuclear reactors. Of those 62 Chernobyl deaths, only 28 were direct deaths caused by the accident itself. Despite the massive media coverage, only 2 people died during the 2011 Fukushima meltdown. One of them died from radiation exposure and the other seems to have died from overexertion due to carrying cleanup equipment. Chernobyl had a flawed reactor design and an incompetent operation crew. Fukushima politically-motivated operators repeatedly ignored recommendations to raise their sea-wall. Neither of these problems could physically occur in Generation III+ reactors which are passively safe.

  4. Thing is with the lunar Space elevator, you forgot to take the weight of the whole thing into account. You don't have to exactly match the speed of the lunar surface. Because it is tidally locked to the earth, you can build it smaller than lunar synchronous orbit and supply the rest of the "up" force with earths gravitational pull. That way the cable should get substantially shorter.

  5. Q: What is the moon for? A: Heavy industry, materials mining, smelting, refining, manufacturing.
    Q: How will it be powered? A: Nuclear fission.
    Q: How will the materials be transported off the moon? A: Rockets, mass drivers, (later, orbital ring).
    Q: What will the materials be used for? A: Constructing orbital infrastructure, i.e. orbital rings, ships, rotating habitats, large telescopes.

  6. Great vid, gives me hope that humankind will find its way one day. I can really use a moon home for retirement. 🙂 thank you Isaac.

  7. You should do more episodes like this these are the things that people are looking to your channel towards more close time less long time

  8. My sister is a chemical engineer who has worked at chemical and paper-plants. All the plants she worked at had such tight energy budgets and such expansive recycling and reuse policies that they were net positives on the grid year round. Apparently industrial waste (yellow and black sludge in particular) is a hell of a fuel for generating electricity. One plant. The International Paper plant in Savannah produced so much power they couldn't sell all of it so they had to "Shutdown days" where they ran the plant at such a high level that they ran out of power causing it to automatically shut down. This was so they could get of the excess electricity they were making and couldn't sell and prevent the plant from overloading which was their largest safety concern.

  9. Its good to have more "near term" videos about how we will build a space infrastructure, especially as SpaceX is building Starship at breakneck speed and NASA going all in the lunar space station. I wouldn't be shocked that more than a few people watching this episode are already mentally preparing to work on these projects (especially with the first life extension therapies coming online very soon).

    Hell, i'm am one of them 😉

  10. I always enjoy your pie-in-the-sky optimism, but I'd love to see more grounded, near-term episodes like this one.

    With regard to lunar space elevators at unstable Lagrange points, could they simply use station keeping thrusters to periodically correct their positioning?

  11. Quit wasting Life Times. Get on down the road to Mars. At least Mars has potential to be livable.

    Eaaaaaa !
    I seen the first man in space. I seen the first man in orbit. I seen the first man on the Moon. I've seen static Space Stations Come and Go. I seen man chasing his tail getting little actual progresses beyond that accomplished. Get Man on Mars. That's what I want to see next. I'm getting Old here. My END GAME is coming up rather fast. Step it up a notch or two, Eaaa?
    Use aged BFR's to build the Braun. Migrate one to Mars.

  12. I truly wish we'll see all of this unfold in the following decades. The space age is near, guys, everyone wants to get back one the moon.
    Just hope that we'll save environnment in the same time.

  13. I realy like you accent, it sounds educated, polite and humble.
    And it adds a seriously touch to your subject.

    I am sorry for beleiving you were from Denmark but being a Swede that's not an insult

  14. Please substantiate the notion of running heavy industry on solar panels/mirrors. It does not work on Earth, why is it realistic for the Moon? Nuclear fission seems much better. Or maybe we can find fossil fuels on the moon?

  15. The moon is also likely to be first human ecumenopolis. Earth is massive and with population stabilizing, technology in general advancing and especially in development in climate control and terraforming, Earth would be slowly becoming overgrown resort/preserve while small in comparison Moon… is bound to become the central starport of humanity and doesn't have environment you'd care about to begin with. Plus there is no problem with leaving or getting back like with Earth. Moon is preferable as center of logistics in Sol system.

  16. Isaac you're channel contains a lot of speculation. But! It's always very well thought through. And out of tons and tons of other channel's, it's really one of a kind!

    Edit:
    I'm getting fat from all those snacks 😀

  17. A big stumbling block to moon mining may be that there's iron, aluminum, uranium and such, locked inside igneous rock, but probably not the economic deposits of ore like we find on Earth, where liquid water plays a critical role in concentrating valuable elements.

  18. Team Isaac
    You guys need to go to schools and get some kids involved with your channel we need to plant the seeds of exploration of space and beyond!!!
    I bet there could be some GRANT money for you guys

  19. Isaac Arthur – you and your team missed the work done by Lift Port Group. I learned of their basic idea at the 2017 International Space Development Conference hosted by the National Space Society and The St. Louis Space Frontier. They then said their space station would be at Earth-Moon L1 and the spacecraft that delivered the space station, cable, and climber would be on the cable extended towards the Earth as the "anchor" was on the cable extended to the Moon's surface. The spacecraft, under the influence of Earth's gravity, would act as the counterweight and the "anchor", under the Moon's gravity, would keep the elevator cable "tight". Once the "anchor" had drilled into the surface and the robots had added more and more weight to the "anchor" the robots would load regolith to the climber's hold and the climber would transfer that regolith to the spacecraft to make the cable even tighter. Then the climber could work with even more massive loads. The space station at L1 can beam power to the surface during the half month of lunar night. And the space station at L1 can process the ore for many projects. Please contact Lift Port Group and gain permission to use their ideas and possibly use the graphics they recently posted to YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSzo6mY3LAA

  20. i found this video easier to follow than the last one, better and more focused script that stays on point helps 🙂

  21. Really getting excited from some of your upcoming episodes.I love it when you explore the experience of what it would be like to live in some of these places. Been a subscriber of yours for a long time. You're definitely helping me to write the Sci-Fi books I've always dreamed of

  22. I know Isaac intentionally avoided any discussion of nuclear fusion in this episode but Earth's moon contains abundant deposits of He-3 that may be crucial for a fusion economy either on Earth or on the moon. This is yet another reason to develop to colonize and mine Luna.

  23. Hey Isaac, would it be any more practical to have an orbital ring around the earth, and one around the moon, connected together by a tether?

  24. Can a Dyson sphere be built around the moon.
    Made of glas (as Hogland sugests) and coated with aluminium, copper or some other metal.

    What about Helium?

  25. Isaac Arthur – I saw that you used only about seven seconds of the 40 second Lunar North Pole sun cycle by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4655 I hope you go into detail about https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_of_eternal_light in your _Moon Crater Cities_.

  26. Going to the moon and creating an industry is like my dream. However we have yet to, on Earth, make a hermetically sealed environment that works, until we can do that, well, just no.

    However using virtual reality we can control robots and machines, but I have yet to see any competition on Earth to that end. I have only seen robots operating with out assistance, or battle bots, which has always bothered me.

  27. I've been thinking about this for years. Thanks for making a video on the topic. Lunar industrialization is vital to humanity expanding beyond Earth.

  28. Perhaps apposing a Mass Driver would be a Mass Breaker. A larger tube with a magnetic decelerator. Computer guidance could make that easy I'd think.

  29. With the results of the LCROSS and LADEE satellites, there's a LOT more water on the Moon than you have described here.

  30. why do people want to colonize space when there is nothing out there? Want to go to a planet like Mars. Earth has animals and plants… But we trample this, destroy this… Soon Earth will look like Mars, why not just wait till then? Do humans love themselves so much they would be happier on a planet like Mars devoid of anything at all, save humans? sounds like hell to me.

  31. Manufacturing domes for floating and living in Venus's atmosphere is an obvious use for the Moon Industrial Complex.

  32. FuSiOn ⚛ like TeRrAfOrMiNg MaRzZ IS an egghead pipedream designed 2 make carrers imo. 4 ALL the decades & 10z of 💸💰💸💰💸💰🤑 GaZiLiOnZz of cash thrown at this, EVEN 'IF' fusion is achieved they have NO IDEA 🤪 how 2 harness it… AND all 2 boil water?, this in principle IZ no different than fission WaTeR 'pre-heaters' used 2day, just cleaner⚛ as 4 MaRzZz? Sure, just as soon AZZ we 'ReStArT' the DeAd 'EM' field, Get serious, 'warm up' the atmo?😂 sure, make mine💉💉 a double🤪.

  33. In the old days, A person could just go loony. Soon it looks like, a person could go to the moon.. Or maybe even do both?

  34. The moon would be perfect for refinement of metals mined in space. You can't really do that on a space station. That could be used to make ships in space. Also would be a great platform for making the ship too at least some of it. The majority of it could be made in space. But a pressurized area filled with the right ratio so not cause a fire but you can do all sorts of different welding would be more ideal. Since cold welding in space is a pain and will expensive. The actual connecting parts of the ship can be done in space just like the ISS. Or on the moon you do get the option to do it all. Really depends on how big you want the space craft.

  35. If we create plants to live in zero g, imagine the size of the fruits and vegetables can get. Plants will use less resources to hold itself up and can use that energy for other purposes.

  36. Ben Bova wrote an AWESOME book in 1981 titled "Welcome to Moonbase", I have read that book like a bible since I got it, hoping that I could influence that part of our future. This video reminds me a lot of the principles that he stated in his book, or course this is a nearly 40 year old book, and we are way more advanced scientifically. BUT still a good read, and a fun watch!

  37. I think you're overthinking it. Grow plants for food that are ready to harvest inside 16 days.
    Although, I don't know how I feel about a diet that consists primarily of pond scum.

  38. Just think, in 1 weeks time, that beautiful art will be transformed into a link for the "why does life exist episode"…….. Much anticipated thank you Isaac!

  39. The lunar geothermal gradient is a potential energy source. Deep shafts need to be sunk into the surface from the bottom of the polar craters to maximise the steepness of that gradient. The same shaft building tech allows for huge vertical mass driver tubes (which can also operate in reverse, if you are a good aim, and the recovered energy can be used for the next outbound launch), access points to subsurface colonies and the production of sealed, oxygen filled thermoacoustic electrical power generator tubes. Such devices would be frictionless mechanisms that would only need maintenance of the O2 within them to permit the heat/pressure wave to travel along them. Phonon tunneling may mean that they can be built at a scale that requires very low pressure anyway. They'd just sit there outputting AC current until the mood itself lost most of the heat from its interior. The building of such shafts is an interesting engineering problem as you probably want a large nuclear powered device that smelted its way downward pumping off the oxygen won from the oxides in the rocks then using the remaining metal as shaft lining materials.

  40. I love Isaac's videos, but I would be soooo glad, when he once pronounces "earth" not like "ouaath" – I can't stand it 😀

  41. I think that the asteroid belt is poor in methane and ammonia. What exactly is your source? Kuiper belt is a little too far away for your proposed tech level.

  42. Three things:
    1: Space based solar has way more energy available outside of the visible wave lengths that Photovoltaics utilize. Between Radiovoltaics and charged particle traps, I suspect lunar solar energy, or perhaps cosmic ray energy, will be far more energetic than we are currently considering.
    2: It may be a viable economic model for the lunar workers to work 12 hour days 7 days a week while the sun shines and then spend the dark time doing maintenance and kicking back. See "Making hay while the sun shines," for more details.
    3: Due to the versatile and stable nature of a lunar equatorial maglev train, I believe it is the best option for both launching and landing both personnel and materials.

  43. I am a bit surprised you dropped launch rings in favor of space elevators when looking to near term tech. The space elevator needs a material so strong and be able to survive enough stuff to where it is basically impossible to make. Even if it could be made, that material is bound to be very expensive and has to be really super long, meaning enormous price tag. At the same time the capacity of a space elevator is really low, making it really hard to to recoup the cost. The launch ring on the other hand if setup with high temperature superconductors to deliver that high power and inflatable towers with tracks on it for capacity to and from the ring, should be able to handle the power loads and railway style movement of vehicles for very high capacities. Also unlike a space elevator, a launch ring can get lots of power from solar panels attached to it while a space elevator would snap from the weight of solar panels mounted to it. An additional source of power for a launch ring would be vehicles landing on it and doing regenerative braking. (I am thinking the top track could use Japanese maglev train style tech where the magnets are on the sides of the vehicle. However I would still have a separate cart in the track from the space vehicle going down it for both reduction of mass of the space vehicle and to have the ability to flip over once accelerated to the 0G point so that G force experienced on say a human would be not much different than an airplane ride for any orbital insertion from LEO to the Moon or even to the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange point.)

    We have another problem in that with the Earth heating so much, to block say 1% of the light hitting the Earth with solar shades, one idea of how to temporarily solve it until we have halted global greenhouse gas emissions, which you have gone over before is to build solar shades and put them into the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange point. I am thinking with a launch ring this could be done with say 1.27 million 100 tonne (launch weight with some of the mass fuel for station keeping) solar shading satellites released from the ring near the -1G speed point (11.2 km/s). A launch ring could handle this many launches in relatively short order. A space elevator cannot and it would be especially hard / fuel consuming to get to the Earth-Sun L1 Lagrange point. As we are already seeing whole continents burn at once and a lot of other really bad stuff happening and it is just getting worse and feedback warming effects are switching into high gear, there really is an urgent need for us to get this done and soon before we are all dead or at least past of the point of no return where say the winds at the base of such a structure would be too high and whip around the tethers too much to compensate for.

    Then comes the notion of getting on and off of the moon. Why not just go to maglev trains, use a kick motor for final adjustments along with ion drive engines for cargo runs, and call it a day?

    Also for getting around the solar system near term, I am somewhat surprised you didn't specifically mention project Orion tech while getting into nuclear propulsion? This goes to the notion that even 1950's tech could get us around the solar system efficiently as 0.1% of the speed of light is really fast in solar system terms where project Orion tech was talking about 10% or better meaning solar system use could move massive payloads with very little fuel; just got to get a safe distance from the Earth before firing up such a drive.

    Why not mention the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, especially if you are using nuclear propulsion to get there? If you need fuel and other organic compounds for Earth-Moon operations sourced from space, some of these moons should be most excellent chemical fuel sources and we could burn that fuel in existing rocket engines. Also outer solar system and Kuiper belt are in general very good organic compound sources and say focusing on getting your nuclear powered ships up to 0.1% of the speed of light would make it very practical to go out there and harvest whatever you needed with near term tech.

    For nuclear tech I am surprised you didn't mention LFTR reactors. Andrew Yang brought this particular nuclear tech up during the last presidential debate he was in, schooling Steyer who had no clue what he was talking about. The thing is the inventor of the light water reactor went this route soon after the first invention as this is what he thought would be a good nuclear power solution within his lifetime. It seems the only reason it died was politics and special interests already invested in the first nuclear tech he invented. We have already worked out the challenges they faced back in the day with molten salt management and we probably could work out the chemical separation techniques for keeping these reactors going for long runs (as in 40 – 100+ years non-stop) without too much development work if the work is not already complete. There is enough Thorium on Earth to last us billions of years this way and space has a lot more to keep our dark side of the moon and deep space ventures powered and warm (hopefully not from the inside out, glow in the dark manner).

  44. Thanks for the comparison of moon elevators vs. mass drivers Isaac. Previously I thought elevators were the way to go due to the low lunar gravity, but I forgot about that day length. 🙂

  45. I wonder how much material one could remove from the moon before it changed the moon's gravity? Also, how much before it changed the tides on earth? Hmm.

  46. Considering how little gravity there is, with solar panels, I can picture something like tall-standing solar towers. If it's possible to get them to track the sun in such an environment, then that could be added too.
    I also feel that there will be a mix of thermal and photovoltaic solar arrays. Maybe split into different sectors and a redundancy system for when the photovoltaic arrays can't provide enough power.
    For those long nights, I can picture there being large power-storage sections to ensure there's still enough power, even if the power sources can't provide that power. Obviously, there'd be other reactors for the nights as mentioned, like the fusion reactor.

    With plants, I can picture after long enough, like in the Expanse, that people could be used as a source of fertilizer for plants…if it's morally corect.

    For location of structures, I feel that the habitats will be laid out in sectors, and obviously mostly underground.
    For ways to 'remove' things from the lunar surface, using rockets and mass drivers would work together well. Mass drivers would probably be a common sight on the lunar surface, alongside solar towers and launch platforms. Rather than being a main use, I'd say that mass drivers would be more for launching things that wouldn't be worth the price for launching via a rocket, though I can't think up anything that would fit under this with how little cost launching a rocket would be on the moon.

    Fuel sources sounds about right from what was mentioned, and, obviously, there is biofuel reactors. That's a point, rather than fertilizers, like in a manga I read, humans who die could actually be used for biofuel.
    I do think that the moon will become a mining point and a stepping stone for further colonisation in the solar system.

    I wonder what other people think about this, and Arthur too. There's a lot of things to talk about when it comes to just the moon itself.

  47. Perhaps the most important aspect of the Moon in my opinion is how it can serve as the ultimate training ground for further expeditions & operations in deep space. To say we were blessed with our Moon is a tremendous understatement.

  48. Unbelievable, "mind blown" – I think I've seen every Isaac Arthur episode at least once, many many times, this may be the only one one may see not age well OR become true during viewers lifetime ! 🙂
    Also at about 27:15 + "…the big question why life exists next week" – my guess would be no comet incoming from sunside 😉

  49. Twelve hour graveyard shift in the bowels of a ship with only the promise of SFIA in the morning to get me through… thanks Isaac. 🙂

  50. would be nice if you could make a series about near future projects , simulate them and calculating the costs ,analyzing details
    my favorite Chanel always

  51. I’m currently writing a book and have a question I can’t find a answer to other than a article I read on the Journal of Space Weather. The question is “can we stop a solar flare using something like the star lifting technique and the processes involved?” The Journal of Space Weather said we could use a giant magnet on the L1 to be our magnetic field to absorb it before it reached earth, also could be the Mars L1 point to give Mars a magnetic field. But I don’t want that type of prevention I want to stop the event before it even happens. I also should add it needs to be at least 99% scientific 100% would be better as it’s a story of “real science” in books for a change. Of course drama is in the books but a true scientific book/screen play pilot is what I need, I as I suspect many would be refreshed to see a movie that couldn’t be picked apart for authenticity.
    Any ideas would be appreciated.

  52. One of my favorite channels!! 😎 if anyone as a problem with Mr Isaac's voice they can go to literal and figurative Hell 😂😂 im sure your fan base is HUGE!????? people think and invite me to go out to the bars or clubs. I say "no thanks" and come home after a long day eat a few CBD gummies to relax anxiety and watch some Isaac Arthur or some.other space video instead 😂😂

  53. How about a mirror on the end of a pole or scaffold that sticks out of one of the shadowed pole craters? (Or better, a larger number of small mirrors.) Track the sun, and you don't have the day/night cycle to worry about. It's always night, unless you want it to be day by aiming sunlight down at you.

  54. Having such a large, no atmosphere, resource-filled moon actually gives humans quite a big leg up in terms of advancing into space. If we were running some sort of space civilization sim, the Moon would add quite a few bonuses to early space colonization.

  55. Out of curiosity, why not simply put a particularly large solar plant at one of the lunar poles? If I recall correctly the moon itself doesn't have a tilted axis like earth does, so theoretically if you could build a plant with those following panels you mention in the video, you could have solar power ad infinitum limited only by time needed for maintenance.

    Something I'd also ask you to look at, coming from an urban planner-to-be here on earth; what about landscape preservation? This probably sounds stupid given the lack of delicate environments on the moon, but I feel like people on earth will sooner or later get irritated by the familiar sight of the moon at night being replaced by yet more urban sprawl. And what of spots with historic significance like the Apollo 11 site? Will they simply get built over with time?

  56. Very promising prospects shown here. Could you please look into some propsed solution for space debris in orbit which might prevent going to the moon in the future?

  57. We need to concentrate more on earth’s binary partner. There is astronomical evidence that the earth and Luna are a binary planet system and earth needs to show its partner a little love instead of acting like it’s still single and pursuing Mars (who ain’t really that great a lover either).

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