National Geographic : 1976 Jul
",4ij i J y* ^fry Bciy/.. It seems like sheer fantasy, mining the moon to build col onies and satellites in space. But scientists now see the project as practical and profit making. Mining is itself sandbox simple. A front-end loader scoops lunar soil from a rect angular pit (above) and loads it onto gondola trains. The trains leave the pit, then climb up a ramp to dump the soil into a compression station. This is linked to what resemble pipe lines on a trellis. Enter a new concept. Lunar soil is pressed into ten-kilogram pellets. These are fed into metal buckets within the pipeline. Nu clear power generates electricity to surround the pellet-bearing buckets with a magnetic field. Accelerated for ten kilometers to 2,400 meters a second-the speed needed for an object to escape moon's gravity-the buckets jettison the pellets, which continue on into space. Some 80,000 kilometers away, at point L-2, a mass catcher traps the pellets-up to a mil lion metric tons a year-which are thereafter transported to L-5. Tethered to L-5 by a ten kilometer transport tube, a fac tory (left), with furnaces fired by a bank of parabolic solar mirrors, refines moon pellets into glass and aluminum, the latter emerging in a huge sheet. Nothing is wasted. By-product oxygen becomes part of the colony's atmosphere. Slag be comes shielding to block dan gerous cosmic rays. The colony under construction appears small in the distance. Building the habitat (follow ing pages), piloted ANTS (As sembly Non-Tethered Ships) guide manufactured sections in to place for attachment. Mov able bulkheads on a section of tube (one numbered 3, upper left) confine an atmosphere for workers within. Mottled panels of slag for shielding fit together like paving blocks.