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The Future of Public Space :
Space rocks

What's a space stone worth to you...

We expand here the discussion of the subject of space rocks and how they might provide a product for a sustainable space business.


News & Articles of Interest

Collecting Space Rocks

A few grams of moon dust reportedly were sold for $42,000 at an auction in the US in 1993. Later a carat of moon rock returned by an unmanned Soviet lunar mission in the 1970s sold for $442,000.

An auction of Space Memoribilia at Christies on Sept. 18, 1999 included a nametag from Jim Irwin's spacesuit that he wore on the Moon during Apollo 15. The tag was impregnated with a small amount of moondust. It was bought for $310,500.

Alan Bean has long put minute samples of the dust embedded in his spacesuit name tag, one of the few items he was allowed to keep for himself from the trip, in the paint in his artworks.

Serendipitous Dust

Florian Noller, who runs the SpaceFlori collectors web site, attended a space memoribilia auction in Los Angeles in October 2000 and happened to purchase a small bag used on the Apollo 15 lunar module.

He later noticed that the bag had several "dirt" stains. Upon closer examination and analysis the dirt turned out to be composed of lunar dust. The bag had apparently been used to carry lunar rock samples and some dust was left behind.

While it is illegal to obtain and sell the Apollo lunar rocks, the Irwin and Bean precedents have indicated that such "accidental" dust samples will not be confiscated.

Spaceflori offered small patches of the bag, which was bought for $2300, mounted on framed plaques at prices ranging from $995 to $2495.

In December 2001, Spaceflori began selling small swatches of moondust from Apollo 11.

Clearly, there is a market for samples of the Moon, Mars and other heavenly bodies.

Questions: How big is the market? Could the payoff from this alone be big enough to pay for the trip with some profit leftover? How to authenticate the samples?

The answer to the last question is the easiest. Composition and isotopic analysis can clearly tell Moon and Mars rocks apart from earth rocks and from each other as well. The famous Mars meteorites, that may contain traces of early Mars bacteria, were identified this way. Similarly, meteorites from the Moon were also identified this way and later confirmed by the Apollo samples.

 

Lunar Dust WristWatch
In November 2008 the high end wrist watch company Romain Jerome offered a wristwatch with lunar dust embedded in it. The Moon Dust-DNA watch includes:

  • A lunar dial based on a mineral deposit including Moon dust
  • A 46 mm steel and titanium case incorporating steel from the Apollo XI space shuttle
  • Rusted steel paws including fragments of the Soyuz spacecraft
  • And a strap composed of fibres from a spacesuit worn during the ISS mission*.

More info:

The Meteorite Model

A possible answer to the marketing questions can be found in the business of meteorites.

Meteorite collecting has in fact become a booming business. See the meteorite subsection of Collecting Space for access to the many websites devoted to meteorite collecting and selling.

Interest in meteorites expanded significantly after the announcement by NASA researchers that a meteorite from Mars may indicate possible Martian bacterial life.

The meteorite business thus provides probably the best model for a future space rock enterprise.

There are many different kinds of meteorites and, as expected, the most common bring low prices, and the rarest bring very high prices.

These sites sell lunar meterorites slices or small pieces for several thousand dollars per gram:

Often the samples are not especially attractive, so the value can assume to be entirely due to their rareness and the cachet of being from the Moon or Mars.

At the other end of the scale, common meteorites can be had for a few dollars per gram. In this case, the appearance becomes more important. For those meteorites with some esthetic qualities, they can be incorporated into various products as these sites indicate:

So from the meteorite market I would conclude that there would in fact be a sizable market for lunar materials.

However, to keep prices up as supply increases, a lunar mining company should 1) become the De Beers of lunar rocks: control the supply while developing the market for different types of lunar materials and for a range of products. 2) prospect for lunar rocks with particularly interesting esthetic values.


Artemis Data Book (Membership required)
The Artemis group that is studying possible commercial lunar missions, offers this page of various lunar merchandising ideas.

For example, Peter Kokh proposed using small samples of moondust in various souvenirs. A small amount would go a long way

Yours truly later proposed other marketing approaches such as small plaques with thin slices of moon rocks.

Lunar Artifacts Dealers
Articles:

 

The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG

 

 

Space Industry
Book List
in association with

Amazon.com

& Amazon.co.uk

Mining the Sky
Mining the Sky : Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets
by John S. Lewis - 1997
Amazon: US UK

Islands in the Sky
S. Schmidt (Edt) & R. Zubrin(Edt), 1996
Amazon: US UK

Entering Space : Creating a Space-Faring Civilization
by Robert Zubrin - 1999
Amazon: US UK

The Millennial Project : Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps
by Marshall T. Savage, A. C. Clarke (Intro) -1994
Amazon: US UK
Living in Space
by G. Harry Stine - 1997
Amazon: US UK

 

 

Lunar Paint

Astronaut and artist Alan Bean (see the Art section) has enhanced the value of his paintings by mixing some moon dust into his paints.

From his Apollo 12 mission on the moon about the only thing that he was allowed to keep was the cloth insignia on his spacesuit.

One day many years later it occurred to him that the patch might have some lunar dust embedded in it.

Sure enought, upon close examination he found the patch to be thoroughly impregnated with lunar particles.

Since then he cuts a small piece off from the patch and grinds it into a powder that he mixes with the paints for his space paintings.

 

 
 
 
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