MILPITAS, Calif. — Dennis Wingo is a good kind of rocket man. He wants to build space vehicles and robots to colonize the moon not for human outposts or science, but for industry.
A veteran developer of systems for space, Wingo sees a wide variety of opportunities to make money on the moon. They include harvesting rare metals and using the near-vacuum of space to make strong alloys and space vehicles.
“The first industries we will start there are metals. We also imagine communications stations and telescopes, but there is no silver bullet — no one thing will make it economically viable,” Wingo said in a talk hosted by the IEEE Consultants' Network of Silicon Valley.
The moon is largely made up of metal oxides that could yield new supplies of platinum — perhaps enough to drive prices for the precious metal down to $300 from $1,400 an ounce today.
“You have to chemically process a ton of earth to get an ounce of platinum, but on the moon you don’t need chemicals, just different levels of heat to make different metals...[with cheaper platinum] the internal combustion engine would be gone in a few years, because fuel cells that are so much more efficient” would be cost competitive, he said.
Today’s super-strength metal alloys including all jet turbines use at some stage of other development vacuum processes that would be cheaper to handle on the moon, he added.
As chief executive of Skycorp, Wingo is currently bidding on a project to make satellites on the International Space Station. He sees even greater opportunities making vehicles using moon metals as materials in 3D printers.
“They found mountains of aluminum oxide, and billions of tons of meteor metals on the moon. Some of the metals have nicely-sized grains to feed into 3D printers. I could print a blade for bulldozer on the moon, I can make rover parts and buildings,” Wingo said.
“You can build things cheaper and easier in space. We can build large structures for geostationary satellites — these are things people write checks for today,” he added.
Next page: Lunar data centers and semiconductor fabs
An artist's concept of a metal-making outpost on the moon. (Images: Skycorp)