In-situ Extraction of Lunar Soil Volatiles

by Layton J. Wittenberg, Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Engineering, Construction, and Operations in Space IV


Techniques for their recovery and utilization of the potentially valuable solar-wind elements embedded in the lunar regolith have been proposed. In order to acquire quantities of 3He for significant production of fusion-electric power on Earth, large tonnages of the regolith must be processed by normal mining procedures. An alternative concept is presented here in which the volatile gases are released while the soil is heated it in-situ. Temporarily constructed pneumatic structures surround the field to collect the gases. The low thermal conductivity of the lunar soil is increased by a factor of 100 by the inject of H2 gas. The energy costs for transporting the required equipment from Earth plus the operation of the equipment on the lunar surface were estimated and a positive energy benefit was obtained, when the 3He was used as fuel to an Earth-based fusion power system.

Subject Headings: Lunar materials | Field tests | Dissolved gases | Soil gas | Particles | Resource management | Soil properties | Financial management

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