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Huge boulders at Taurus-Littrow,
apparently dislodged from bedrock
farther up the slopes of the upland
hills near the Apollo 17 landing site,
were sampled by astronauts such as
Given the current state of Earth-to-orbit boost technology, it is neither economical nor environmentally friendly to use rockets to loft the enormous volume of materials from the Earth's surface to build structures of the size of solar power satellites and space colonies in Earth orbit. Fortunately, NASA's Apollo missions of the last century found that Lunar surface soils are comprised of about 20 percent metals (suitable for space construction) and 20 percent silicon (which is needed for making solar power cells). Much of the rest of lunar soil is composed of oxygen.
The Moon also has other advantages as a source of construction materials for near Earth orbit . Its weak surface gravity is only one-sixth as strong as Earth's. As a result, in combination with its small diameter, it takes less than five percent as much energy to boost materials from the Lunar surface into orbit compared with the launch energy needed from Earth's surface into orbit.
Since the Moon essentially has no atmosphere, its lack of atmospheric drag and weak gravitational pull makes it practical to use electromagnetic mass accelerators ("mass drivers") to loft construction materials from its surface to near Earth orbit -- i.e., as a steady stream of small payloads to a precise collection point in space. Mass driver technology was tested late in the last century under the sponsorship of the Space Studies Institute (SSI), the nonprofit foundation founded by the late physicist and visionary Gerard K. O'Neill (19??-92).
NASA -- larger image
The needs of 12 workers could
be met by a 16-meter diameter
inflatable habitat with facilities
for exercise, operations control,
clean up, lab work, hydroponic
gardening, a wardroom, private
crew quarters, dust-removing
devices for lunar surface work,
an airlock, and lunar rover and
lander vehicles. (More images
at NASA's Mars Image Gallery.)
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