Apollo 11 Ilmenite Revisited

by E. N. Cameron, Univ of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

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


Various investigations have shown (1) that lunar regoliths are extremely complex materials, (2) that ilmenite is a minor component (8 to 10%) of high-Ti regoliths, and (3) that most of the ilmenite is interlocked with other minerals or glass in regolith particles. A review of polished sections of Apollo regolith samples that I studied in 1970 in general confirms these findings. Beneficiation of regolith will not be easy; there is no certainty that a high-grade ilmenite concentrate can be produced. Magnetic and electrostatic separation have promise for removing much of the roughly one-third of the regolith particles that contain little or no ilmenite. However, further beneficiation by these methods can only be effective if confined to the finest size fractions. Sizing of regolith to remove coarser fractions will therefore be of paramount importance. The problems of large-scale beneficiation need to be addressed, beginning with tests on kilogram-size samples of actual regolith. In view of the critical importance of lunar oxygen production to lunar development, acquisition of large samples of high-Ti regolith should be a top priority for the next lunar mission.

Subject Headings: Lunar materials | Space colonies | Minerals | Particles | Space exploration | Glass | Magnetic fields | Geology

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