For soft landing payloads, the LSE pays for itself in 20 payload cycles; for sample return it can pay for itself in as little as a single payload cycle, depending on the sample site.
The lunar elevator concept is a long tether which is loaded under tension by terrestrial and lunar gravity. One end is anchored on the Moon and the other end free, hanging towards Earth. The orbital center of mass of the system is located at an Earth-Moon Lagrange location, either L1 or L2, approximately 50,000 kilometres from the lunar surface. Such a tether can now be built inexpensively from commercially available materials, e.g. Zylon, Dyneema, M5. The near-side L1 tether is attached to the lunar equator at Sinus Medii.
For a one time capital cost of US$800 Million , a lunar elevator can be built today using existing available materials. This first generation lunar elevator will softly deliver an infinite number of payloads to the lunar surface, each weighing 100 kg, and retrieve the same amount of material from the lunar surface. The alternative of using chemical rockets to soft land on the Moon [or return material] is prohibitively expensive.
The first generation lunar elevator kit weighs 30 tons and can be delivered today to the Lunar L1 lagrange libration location, using a single Delta-IV (or Ariane-V) launch. From there the tether is unreeled upwards and downwards. The lower end anchors itself into the lunar soil using robotic penetrators.
The lunar elevator represents a game changing technology which will open up the Moon to commercial mining and long term human exploration.
A very nice lunar elevator study report from Israel. Student Project at The Technion, Israel, 2008. A full year under the supervision of Dr Alexander Kogan.
• Cargo delivery from the Moon to the Earth can be done within 6 days using solar power and no propellant.
• The cargo system uses a cable car moving along a stretched ribbon.
• The ribbon is kept stretched by terrestrial and lunar gravity. One end is anchored on the Moon and the other one free.
• The cargo released from the cable car performs a passive flight to the Earth.
Here is the link to the details:
more details here too ... http://asri.technion.ac.il/jacobs-ladder/
The Earth's Moon is a treasure trove of mineral resources, such as precious metals, rare earth elements, Helium-3 and Oxygen for propellants. However, the cost of soft landing on the Moon is currently very high. A lunar elevator can bring the cost of lunar mining to a par with terrestrial mining for some commodities.
The first market will probably be Helium-3 which currently sells on the terrestrial market for one million dollars per ounce. There is a critical shortage of He-3 which is in great demand for various industrial applications. Terrestrial supplies of He-3 will be exhausted by 2030. He-3 is abundant on the lunar surface.
The lunar elevator can also transport oxygen from the Moon to Low Earth Orbit where it can refuel tugs to take satellites from LEO to GEO, a significant revenue source. This reduces the cost of launches to GEO by a factor of 7.
While the Mars rovers are fascinating, let's not forget that the ESA landed the Huygens probe on a moon of Saturn back in 2005. This new imagery compiles data from the mission into a video of the descent and ground view after landing. Water ice: check. Strange materials never replicated in a lab: check.
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