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TSS独家:月球采矿?月球资源的释放

TSS Exclusive: Mining the Moon? The Unlocking of Lunar Resources

by Benjamin Cameron

Distant stars shimmer in the depths of space as you peer out of the window in your personal quarters aboard Luna 3. You’ve seen the stars before, but never from this vantage point, and it’s mesmerizing. Your eyes drift downwards to the silver surface of the moon, growing larger now as the rocket approaches. The seas of moondust and speckled craters are beautiful, but what’s startling is the expanse of movement and light coming into view. A large circle at the center, with roads extending outwards in an orderly geometry that seems out of place within the lunar wilderness. It’s Moon Valley, the first city on the moon, and you’re just one of 10,000 space tourists that it will host this year. According to the start-up ispace, this could be a snapshot of your life as soon as 2040.

当你在月球3号上的私人住所里凝视窗外时,遥远的星星在太空深处闪烁。你以前见过星星,但从来没有从这个有利的角度观察过它们,这是迷人的。你的眼睛向下漂移到银色的月球表面,随着火箭的接近,你的眼睛睁得越来越大。月尘的海洋和星星点点的陨石坑是美丽的,但令人吃惊的是运动和进入你视野的光线是如此广阔。中心是一个很大的圆圈,道路以整齐的几何结构向外延伸,在月球荒野中显得格格不入。这是月球谷,月球上的第一个城市,你只是今年将接待的1万名太空游客之一。据初创公司ispace称,这可能是2040年你生活的一个缩影。

Renewed interest in lunar exploration is reaching fever pitch as space companies reveal ambitious plans for the coming decades. Young space start-ups such as Offworld, Moon Express, and ispace are looking to exploit lunar resources in order to fuel expansion into the solar system, with many envisioning a future of lunar bases, distant space stations, and in general a kind of “new space renaissance.” Optimistic entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones with their eyes on the moon; even NASA is preparing to return to the moon within the next few years to map resources. They are hoping to create a sustainable, manned lunar base within a decade, which will be dependent on lunar resources. But just what are these resources, and how will they provide the foundation for the new era in space promised by these companies?

随着航天公司公布未来几十年雄心勃勃的计划,人们对月球探测的兴趣正在升温。年轻的太空初创公司,如Offworld、Moon Express和ispace,都在寻求开发月球资源,以推动向太阳系的扩张,许多公司都在设想未来的月球基地、遥远的空间站,以及一般意义上的“新太空复兴”。乐观的企业家并不是仅仅关注美国宇航局准备在未来几年内返回月球。他们希望在十年内建立一个可持续的载人月球基地,这将依赖月球资源。但是,这些资源是什么,它们将如何为这些公司承诺的新时代提供基础呢?

There are several primary resources that space companies hope to extract from the moon. Oxides in the lunar surface material could be used to create breathable oxygen for astronauts and create 3D structures to protect against micrometeorites and deadly cosmic radiation. Rare Earth metals could potentially be extracted as well, providing materials for advanced electronics (it’s also believed that Helium-3 could be mined for use in “yet-to-be-built” fusion reactors).

太空公司希望从月球上获取几种主要资源。月球表面材料中的氧化物可以用来为宇航员制造可呼吸的氧气,并创建3D结构,以防止微陨石和致命的宇宙辐射。稀土金属也有可能被提取出来,为先进的电子设备提供材料(据信氦-3可以被开采出来用于“尚未建成的”聚变反应堆)。

Without question, though, the most important resource on the moon, and at the core of every ambitious plan for future space infrastructure, is lunar ice. Lunar ice is known to exist in vast quantities within deep craters at the moon’s poles, untouched by sunlight for millions of years. Space agencies and companies eyeing lunar resources expect this ice to be fairly easy to extract robotically. NASA is planning the construction of a space station (“The Gateway”) to orbit the moon in 2024, while ESA’s planned Hercules mission will explore the feasibility of collecting lunar ice resources. Both projects will advance our understanding of and capability to harvest lunar ice. Additionally, many space startups plan to explore and harvest lunar resources using rovers within the coming decade. All of this preliminary investment into robotically collecting lunar ice could greatly benefit future manned missions to the moon, as these missions could potentially land at a “rudimentary base with preliminary supplies,” cutting down on mission costs and jumpstarting the productivity of the mission.

不过,毫无疑问,月球上最重要的资源,也是未来太空基础设施每项雄心勃勃计划的核心,就是月球冰。众所周知,月球两极的深陨石坑中存在着大量的月球冰,数百万年来都没有受到阳光的影响。太空机构和关注月球资源的公司预计,用机器人提取这些冰相当容易。美国航天局计划在2024年建造一个绕月球运行的空间站(“门户”),而欧空局计划的大力神号任务将探索收集月球冰资源的可行性。这两个项目都将促进我们对月球冰的了解和收获能力。此外,许多太空创业公司计划在未来十年内利用月球车探索和收获月球资源。所有这些对机器人收集月球冰的初步投资,都将极大地有利于未来载人登月任务,因为这些任务有可能降落在“有初步补给的基本基地”,从而降低任务成本,提高任务生产率。

Across all of the new space mission plans and future projections, lunar ice is held to be the central resource that will allow space projects to flourish, which will in turn boost the global economy and technological advancement. But just how will the moon’s ice resources benefit future space missions? The most obvious way to use lunar ice is to boil it off to use for drinking water, or for cultivating fresh food. It could also be electrolyzed using the sun’s energy in order to extract breathable oxygen, as well as for protection against cancer-inducing cosmic radiation. And it doesn’t end there; the hydrogen and oxygen contained in lunar ice could even be used to form rocket fuel. This would allow the creation of lunar refueling stations where rockets from Earth could take on additional fuel to prepare for further travels into the solar system. This would provide enormous savings given the prohibitive cost of carrying that fuel off of the Earth’s surface. These savings would make such rocket missions more economical and therefore further boost expansion into space.

在所有新的太空任务计划和未来的预测中,月球冰被认为是使太空项目得以蓬勃发展的中心资源,这反过来又将促进全球经济和技术进步。但是月球的冰资源对未来的太空任务有何益处呢?最明显的利用月球冰层的方法是将其煮沸,用于饮用水,或培育新鲜食物。它也可以利用太阳的能量进行电解,以提取可呼吸的氧气,以及防止致癌的宇宙辐射。它还不止于此,月球冰中所含的氢和氧甚至可以用来形成火箭燃料。这将允许建立月球加油站,在那里来自地球的火箭可以补充燃料,为进一步进入太阳系做准备。考虑到从地球表面运送这种燃料的高昂成本,这将提供巨大的节约。这些节省下来的资金将使这种火箭任务更加经济,从而进一步推动向太空的扩张。

It can be easy to get carried away in the midst of these optimistic visions of a space renaissance, so it’s worth taking a step back to hear what the skeptics have to say about lunar mining. For starters, some scientists dispute whether key resources on the moon, such as heavy metals, are even minable. When a planetary body is still partially molten, heavy elements sink to the center of the body while lighter materials rise to the top. This means that many of the moon’s valuable metals are located at or near its core, where they are nearly impossible to access. Also, there is still a large degree of uncertainty regarding the amount of various lunar resources that are actually present on the moon. According to the Washington Post; “There could be enough helium-3 to power the Earth for 10,000 years, or there might not be enough to ever make commercial mining profitable, even if the entire lunar surface were being mined.” So while most scientists are confident about the availability and importance of lunar ice, there are still disagreements regarding the feasibility of mining other materials that space companies are after.

在这些对太空复兴的乐观憧憬中,人们很容易忘乎所以,值得退一步听听怀疑论者对月球采矿的看法。首先,一些科学家争论月球上的关键资源,如重金属,是否是可开采的。当行星体仍处于部分熔融状态时,重元素下沉到星体中心,而较轻的物质上升到顶部。这意味着月球上许多有价值的金属都位于或接近其核心,在那里它们几乎不可能进入。此外,关于月球上实际存在的各种月球资源的数量,仍然存在很大程度的不确定性。据《华盛顿邮报》报道,“可能有足够的氦-3为地球提供一万年的电力,也可能没有足够的氦-3使商业开采有利可图,即使整个月球表面都在开采。”因此,尽管大多数科学家对月球冰的可利用性和重要性充满信心,对于开采太空公司所追求的其他材料的可行性,仍然存在分歧。

There are some issues with lunar mining that go beyond the nuts and bolts of resources and extraction, however. For one, there is the legal question; is it even legal to mine the moon? Who owns, or can own, lunar property? According to the 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treaty, nations cannot claim ownership of the moon. There is no mention, however, of the question of private ownership, meaning that lunar mining companies wouldn’t be violating the treaty in an obvious way by using the lunar surface for commercial ventures. It’s a legal question that no one really has the answer to at the moment. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory perhaps puts it best: “Until we get there and fight it out, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

然而,月球采矿还有一些问题超出了资源和开采的基本要素。首先,有一个法律问题:开采月球是否合法?谁拥有或可以拥有月球财产?根据1967年的联合国外层空间条约,各国不能声称拥有月球的所有权。然而,没有提到私有制的问题,这意味着月球采矿公司利用月球表面进行商业投资不会明显违反该条约。这是一个法律问题,目前还没有人真正得到答案。美国宇航局喷气推进实验室也许说得最好:“在我们到达那里并与之抗争之前,我们只能拭目以待。”

One final question to consider as we look ahead to our future in space is whether it is ethical to mine the moon. The moon has been a major fixture in human culture since the beginning of our species. If there is any celestial body that deserves respect and consideration, it’s our moon. Considering our track record when it comes to treating other major natural environments, such as our rainforests, with care and respect, it’s very important that we learn from our mistakes and plan ahead for lunar mining. According to space archeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, one solution is to implement an environmental impact process for lunar industry. This could ensure that lunar companies meet ethical guidelines and operate according to regulations which protect the moon from over exploitation and other issues. According to Gorman, when our species began exploiting and manipulating the Earth millions of years ago, “we didn’t know what we were doing.” As we approach a new age in space, in which space companies will vie for lunar resources and industry, it’s worth heeding her warning: “We have no excuse now.”

在我们展望未来的太空之际,我们要考虑的最后一个问题是,开采月球是否合乎道德。自人类诞生以来,月球一直是人类文化的主要组成部分。如果说有什么天体值得尊敬和考虑的话,那就是我们的月亮。考虑到我们在对待其他主要自然环境(如雨林)时所取得的成绩,我们必须从错误中吸取教训,并提前为月球采矿计划。根据太空考古学家爱丽丝·戈尔曼博士的说法,一个解决方案是对月球工业实施一个环境影响过程。这可以确保月球公司符合道德准则,并按照保护月球不受过度开发和其他问题影响的规定运营。戈尔曼认为,数百万年前,当我们的物种开始开发和操纵地球时,“我们不知道我们在做什么。”随着我们进入太空新时代,太空公司将争夺月球资源和工业,她的警告值得注意:“我们现在没有借口了。”

翻译:STARSET Mirror翻译组

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