Caveman in Space

From The Economist, print edition, Technology Quarterly, June 7, 2014. 

"The discovery of Europan life would, Dr Stone reckons, be “a pretty good contender” for one of the most momentous events in human history. That might satisfy most explorers, but not Dr Stone. He has founded the Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) to process water on the Earth’s Moon into oxygen and hydrogen for rocket fuel. It can cost around $16,000 per kilo to send supplies like fuel into low Earth orbit. Transporting fuel to the Moon would cost at least five times as much, says Jeffrey Hoffman, a space-flight expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is familiar with SEC. The ability to produce fuel in space, he thinks, would slash the cost of missions from placing geostationary satellites to interplanetary travel."

Bill Stone: I'm going to the Moon. Who's with Me?

Filmed at TED2007.

"There are three underpinnings of working in space privately. One of them is the requirement for economical earth-to-space transport. The Burt Rutans and Richard Bransons of this world have got this in their sights and I salute them. Go, go, go.

The next thing we need are places to stay on orbit. Orbital hotels to start with, but workshops for the rest of us later on. The final missing piece, the real paradigm-buster, is this: a gas station on orbit. If it existed, it would change all future spacecraft design and space mission planning."

Mining the Moon's Water

By Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer,  January 13, 2011

Want to Mine the Solar System? Start With the Moon

By Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer, October 30, 2010

This recent photo of the moon was taken by astronauts on the International Space Station during the Expedition 24 mission mid-2010. It was posted by cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia's Federal Space Agency.

This recent photo of the moon was taken by astronauts on the International Space Station during the Expedition 24 mission mid-2010. It was posted by cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin of Russia's Federal Space Agency.

"The first extraterrestrial mining operation in human history will likely start up on the moon, thanks to its ample and relatively accessible stores of water ice, experts say.

That was the majority view of a panel of scientists and engineers asked to consider where, beyond Earth, humanity should go first to extract resources.

The Moon won out over asteroids and Mars, chiefly because it's so close to Earth and has so much water, as well as other resources like methane and ammonia."

Jim Keravala: Propellant Depot Infrastructure as the Basis for a Space Industrial Revolution

Filmed at Government Futures Lab, Reconstitutional Convention, April 26, 2013.

Strip Mine the Moon to Fuel Space Exploration

DISCOVERY.COM - July 13, 2011

“For the first time, access to space would be truly economical. At last, people would be able to begin new ventures, including space tourism, space-debris cleanup, satellite refuelling, and interplanetary voyages.”

Out of This World

By Dale Tietz, Mining Magazine, March 2013

Small commercial robots the size of riding mowers could prepare a safe landing site for NASA's lunar outpost by surrounding it with an eight-foot high semi-circle berm to block grit kicked out by spacecraft landings from hitting nearby habitats. Credit: Mark Maxwell, Astrobotic Technology.

Small commercial robots the size of riding mowers could prepare a safe landing site for NASA's lunar outpost by surrounding it with an eight-foot high semi-circle berm to block grit kicked out by spacecraft landings from hitting nearby habitats. Credit: Mark Maxwell, Astrobotic Technology.

"SPACE.com: You've said that water will open the heavens like gold opened the American West. Please explain what you mean by that.

Bill Stone: It costs about $10,000/kg to launch most "business-class"payloads into low-Earth orbit (LEO), except for the space shuttle, which is tremendously more expensive. New breakthroughs in physics and/or economy must be realized to significantly reduce this high cost; however, none appear to be on the horizon.

A major issue in making access to space cheaper is that every space mission must carry its own fuel for in-space operations, since in-space refuelling does not currently exist. Even if it did, that fuel would have to be lifted and stored on orbit in fuel depots at even higher prices. To avoid this high-cost barrier to real progress, a means to provide cheaper propellants in space has to be developed. We have the answer: water-derived propellants from the moon.

Since water is abundantly available on the Moon, as corroborated by recent NASA observations, it can be harvested, transported to LEO and converted to liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants to be sold commercially at much lower prices. Our analysis shows it is about 15 times cheaper to launch any mass from the Moon to LEO than from the Earth.

Lower-cost propellants in space will transform access to and invigorate operations in space. Importantly, our business model indicates this can be realistically done within the decade. Launch providers will now be able to use smaller, cheaper launch vehicles that do not carry excess fuel. They can now get that extra fuel from our orbiting "gas stations." What is very encouraging is that current space treaties and law permit commercial operations on the moon, so the opportunity is wide open to anyone."

Gas Stations in Space

By Alexandra Lopez-Pache, CIM Magazine, December/January 2013 

Jim Keravala: Shackleton Energy Company Space Propellant Depot and Transportation Systems-A New Industrial Revolution

Filmed at Canadian Space Commerce Assn 2013 Briefing