Moon Holds Treasure Trove of Titanium other Rare Ores

It’s official: the Moon is bursting with so many precious ores—including titanium—some are calling it a treasure trove.

There’s little doubt that if the fabled buccaneers of old were alive today they’d be heading for the Moon.

A long-awaited report has been confirmed and released to the public—NASA’s latest spacecraft the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) orbiting and surveying the Moon has compiled a chart revealing regions so rich in titanium they might make gold bugs salivate.

As Mankind’s technology advances, the demand for titanium has increased. That’s because the metal is light, tough, and has a very high melting point.

Yet Earth has relatively little titanium; the metal is usually laboriously processed from rocks containing less than one percent of it.

An embarrassment of riches

It almost seems ore-rich soil is everywhere. For instance, not far from where the Apollo astronauts strolled the Moon in the eastern Mare Serenitatus, the ground is virtually loaded with iron, aluminum, magnesium, and titanium waiting to be mined and processed. It’s the proverbial embarrassment of riches.

All of this can only serve to further whet the appetite of the Russians and Chinese. Both countries have vowed to go to the moon and mine it for precious Helium-3—an element rare on Earth—that can be used to fuel future commercial fusion reactors.  

Speaking about the new map compiled by the LRO that identifies Lunar treasure troves, Mark Robinson, of Arizona State University told the Daily Mail, “We still don’t really understand why we find much higher abundances of titanium on the moon compared to similar types of rocks on Earth.”

The reason for the disparity may be found in the current theory gaining ground with geochemists that a large planet collided with Earth billions of years ago and threw much of the lighter elements into space. The debris condensed as it orbited Earth and eventually became the Moon.

“What the lunar titanium-richness does tell us is something about the conditions inside the moon shortly after it formed, knowledge that geochemists value for understanding the evolution of the moon,” Robinson added.

Importance of identifying Lunar resources

Many scientists agree that identifying the regions of the Moon rich in resources is important to future Lunar bases, colonies and eventually industry. Resources cannot easily be imported from Earth and the more ores exist on the Moon the easier it will be to establish self-sufficient colonies.

The other concern was water. That concern was retired after NASA and the European Space Agency discovered abundant water locked inside the Moon. [See: NASA: Moon swimming in water – moon bases could be next]

“Astronauts will want to visit places with both high scientific value and a high potential for resources that can be used to support exploration activities,” Robinson explained. “Areas with high titanium provide both—a pathway to understanding the interior of the moon and potential mining resources.”

Some in industry eye the Moon as the next leap forward for industrialization. During the 20th Century, science fiction author and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke once predicted that oil created millionaires, atomic energy and electronics would create billionaires, but space industries would produce the first trillionaires.

Bring it on…

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Read more about mining the Moon and Lunar bases

Mining the Moon, Technology Review

Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel, Wired

Russia on track to build giant lunar base, Helium

Europeans race to reignite fusion energy, Helium