January 18, 2018
Dr. Phil Metzger and Dr. Julie Brisset have been contracted by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) to study the extraction of water from the Moon’s polar regions. They will use computer modeling to develop the optimum arrangement of thermal extraction wells to obtain water at the lowest cost. This is in collaboration with researchers at the Colorado School of Mines, whose work shows that lunar water is an economic resource that will reduce launch operations. Water can be mined by thermal extraction then lifted into lunar orbit and lowered down to Low Earth Orbit where it can be sold to a launch provider like ULA at an orbiting propellant depot. Metzger and Brisset will optimize the mining design to lower the expected cost of mining water as far as possible. If NASA adopts the use of in-space resources for its trips to Mars, it could dramatically reduce the cost of exploration, leading to more and better science for the taxpayers. ULA is funding this work as part of its CisLunar-1000 strategy to revolutionize the space economy. They predict $2.7 trillion dollars of commercial space business within 30 years.