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Physics World Blog

Money from the Moon

10 Jul 2019, 08:30 UTC
Money from the Moon
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

As I’m sure you’ll have noticed, this month Physics World is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong setting foot on the Moon for the first time. But what I’m interested in is whether we can commercialize the Moon or use it as a “space port” to take us further afield. At first sight, that might seem mad. Space is only 100 km away, but it’s an unforgiving place, where you need to have every bit of physics, maths and engineering right to make progress.
What’s more, getting to space – and staying there – is expensive. In 2015 an Atlas V rocket launched 8123 kg into low-Earth orbit at a cost of $164m – that’s more than $20,000 per kilogram. As the joke goes: escape velocity, you can’t leave home without it. So why, apart from proving its technical prowess, why would any business bother going to the Moon? Surely it doesn’t make commercial sense?
However, as I mentioned recently, getting into orbit is gradually becoming cheaper thanks in part to the reusable rocket technology developed by former physicist Elon Musk’s firm SpaceX. Its Falcon Heavy rocket can now get 53 tonnes into low-Earth orbit for $90m – ...

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