Review: Lunar Mineralogy

“Lunar Mineralogy” written by Judith Frondel, published by Wiley-Interscience, and weighing in at 323 pages with index.

Whereas the last Moon rocks book reviewed here at OotC, “The Lunar Rocks” was in large part the story of the study of the first samples from the Moon, by the time this book was published there had been copious amounts of supplemental materials to study, and many early hypotheses had been dropped. Really, this one is best described as a catalogue of what was found in the samples.

The book begins with a chapter on the Geochemical and Geological History of the Lunar Rocks, and a general overview of the Moon’s environment, such as the atmosphere so tenuous that it can be considered a collisionless gas, or the frequent small Moonquakes that occur about 800km down, which appear to have a tidal association. Don’t worry though, there are no plate tectonics on the Moon.

The book then works its way through the minerals of the Moon, starting with Native Elements
·Metallic Iron – Kamacite (alpha-Fe, or alpha-(Ni,Fe))
·Metallic Iron – Taenite (gamma-(Fe,Ni))
·Metallic Iron – Doubtful Cr-Fe Metal (17% Cr/81% Fe)
·Metallic Iron – Unidentified Phase
·Copper (Cu)
·Brass (Cu+Zn w/minor Sn)
·Tin (Sn)
·Tentative Nickel
·Tentative Cu-Ni-Zn-Fe Metal (58% Cu/22% Ni/17% Zn/2% Fe, prob. not indigenous)
·Doubtful Indium (In)
·Doubtful Graphite (C)

In each case, the item is characterized in its occurence and form, sometimes found frequently, sometimes found only in a single grain. The chemical composition is discussed as well as analytical techniques like optics and x-ray. Both tables and text are amply supported with anywhere from one to a dozen references. This format is carried through all of the succeeding chapters. Also found throughout are thin-section and scanning electron microscope photos, which would probably look an awful lot cooler were they in color.

Next up we have Sulfides, Phosphide, and Carbides
·Troilite (FeS)
·Mackinawite (FeS, or (Fe,Ni)sub1+xS)
·Chalcopyrite (CuFeS2)
·Cubanite (CuFe2S3)
·Bornite (Cu5FeS4)
·Sphalerite (ZnS)
·Niningerite (MgS)
·Tentative Talnakhite (Cu9(Fe,Ni)9S16)
·Tentative Pentlandite ((Fe,Ni)9S8)
·Doubtful Chalcocite (Cu2S)
·Doubtful Molybdenite (MoS2)

·Schreibersite ((Fe,Ni,Co)3P)


·Cohenite ((Fe,Ni)3C)
·Tentative Moissanite (SiC)
·Ramdohr’s Phase (2)/Mineral D (unidentified, hardness >9)
·Aluminum Carbide (Al4C3)

Next up we have Simple Oxides and Oxides of Ferric Iron
·Baddeleyite (ZrO2)
·Rutile (TiO2)
·Unidentified Titanium Phases (like a TiO2 polymorph)
·Ilmenite (FeTiO3)
·Corundum (alpha-Al2O3)
·Tentative Wüstite (FeO)
·Unidentified Oxides (like ZnO)
·Goethite (alpha-FeO(OH))
·Tentative Hematite (Fe2O3)
·Tentative Magnetite (Fe3O4)
·Unidentified Phases X1 (Zn-rich) and X2 (Cl-rich) and Pb-bearing phase


Then the Multiple Oxides of the Spinel Group
Normal Inverse Series:
-Chromite- (FeCr2O4)
·Ulvospinel (Fe2TiO4)
·Hercynite (FeAl2O4)
Normal Series:
·Hercynite (FeAl2O4)
·Spinel (MgAl2O4)
Green Spinel?

Followed by the Multiple Oxides Zirconolite and Armalcolite
·Zirconolite ((Ca, Fe) (Zr, Ce) (Ti, Nb)2O7) (essentially)
·Tentative Perovskite (CaTiO3)
·Unidentified Zr-Rich Phases
·Armalcolite ((Fe, Mg) Ti2O5) (related to terrestrial pseudobrookite series)

Perhaps of more interest to the gardeners are the Carbonates and Phosphates
·Tentative Aragonite (CaCO3)
·Doubtful Calcite (CaCO3)
·Apatite ((Ca, X)5([P, Si]O4)3(F, Cl))
·Unidentified Apatite-like Phases
·Whitlockite ((Ca, x)3([P, Si]O4)2)
·Unidentified Whitlockite-like Phases
·Monazite ((Ce, La, Y, Th)(PO4))
·Tentative Farringtonite ((Mg, Fe)3(PO4)2)

Then we have the SiO2 Minerals
·Cristobalite (SiO2)
·Tridymite (SiO2)
·Quartz (SiO2)
·Unidentified Polymorphs
·Silica Glass


More complex are the Silicates: The Feldspars
Plagioclase Feldspars
·Albite- (NaAlSi3O8)
·Anorthite (CaAl2Si2O8) Series·
·Maskelynite (Plagioclase Glass) (CaAl2Si2O8) (essentially)
Potash Feldspars (KAlSi3O8)

Our next Silicates are the Pyroxenes and Pyroxferroite
·Diopside (CaMgSi2O6)
·Hedenbergite (MgFeSi2O6)
·Ferrosilite (Fe2Si2O6)
·Augite (Ca(Mg, Fe) Si2O6)
·Pigeonite (m(MgFeSi2O6) + n(Ca2Si2O6))
·Clinobronzite (MgFeSi2O6)
·Clinoenstatite (MgSi2O6)
·Clinohypersthene (FeMgSi2O6)
Orthopyroxenes (MgSiO3-FeSiO3 Series)
·Bronzite ((Mg, Fe)SiO3)
·Enstatite (MgSiO3)
·Hypersthene ((Fe, Mg)SiO3
Pyroxferroite ((Fe0.83Ca0.13Mg0.02Mn0.02)SiO3) (Close to)

For more Silicate fun we have the Olivines
·Forsterite (Mg2SiO4)
·Fayalite (Fe2SiO4)


Trailing the crowd are the Minor Silicates
·Tranquillityite (Fe8[2+] (Zr + Y)2Ti3Si3O24)
·Zircon (ZrSiO4)
·Titanite (CaTiSiO5)
·Thorite (ThSiO4)
-Magnesioarfvedsonite ((Na,K,Ca)3 (Mg,Mn,Fe)5 ([OH]?, F)2 (Si, Al, Ti)8 O22)
-Hornblende ((Ca,Na,K)2-3 (Mg,Fe,Al)5 ([OH],F)2 (Si,Al)2 Si6O22)
-Aluminotschermakite ((Ca,Na,K)2.5 (Mg,Fe,Mn)4Al1.5 ([OH]?,F,CL)2Al2Si6O22)
-Kaersutite ((Ca1.88Na0.79K0.35)(Mg1.84Mn0.05Fe2.47Al0.18Ti0.45)Al2Si6O23)
-Biotite ((K2(OH)4(Mg, Fe, Al)6(Si, Al)8O20)
-Unnamed Mica
-Trioctahedral Phyllosilicate
-Colorless Micaceous Grain
-Almandine (Alm70.7Gro25.0Sp2.7Pyr1.6)
-Tentative Spessartite (Mn3Al2(SiO4)3)
·Tentative Melilites ((Ca,Na)2(Mg,Zn,Fe,Al,Ca,Mn) (Si,Al)2O7)
·Unidentified Silicates
·Colorless, Birefringent Mineral
·Unknown Fe-Silicate

And there you have it – everything the scientists found, or think they found, amongst the samples returned from the Moon. Obviously that’s a lot of material to work through, but the book is encyclopaedic in its thoroughness. The appendices include a three-page bibliography, Sample Numbers and Their Names, which identifies the basic rock type of each of the Apollo and Luna samples, a note on Sample Numbering, and an Index.

This one is certainly not for amateurs. It could certainly have used a glossary, so if you’re not well-versed in mineralogy (like me), then you’re probably going to be in over your head. What becomes evident, though, is that the way we collect resources on the Moon is going to be different from the way we do so here on Earth. I have a feeling it’s going to be more of an aggregation of elemental resources type of approach, in that by subjecting the gathered materials to increasingly higher temperatures you ‘peel off’ more and more of the elements from the feedstock and are able to separate and store them. Given the vacuum you’ve got to work with on the Moon you should be able to develop some nice stores of pure iron, titanium and more. This is also ideal for nanotechnology research, in that you don’t have to develop gobblers to go find what they need as it’s pre-provided in pure form. Lots of folks want to isolate nanotechnology on the Moon anyway for fear of the ‘grey goo’ effect.

Some kind of pyrolitic electrophoretic approach, perhaps. I don’t know and I’m really not qualified to speak on the matter, but it was a bit disappointing to read the concluding paragraph of the Introduction by Ms. Frondel:

“The lunar minerals have no great variety and, obviously, no potential for economic exploitation. Their importance lies in the information they yield concerning the processes of lunar rock formation, and hence, the origin and history of the Moon.”

Hmmm…why doesn’t it surprise me that a scientist would say something like that. Somehow I think time will prove Ms. Frondel wrong in her economic speculation. (and I wouldn’t feel bad about being the one that proved her wrong, although it hasn’t happened yet) As Dr. Spudis noted in comments in my review of “The Lunar Rocks”, no one has written the book on the economic geology of the Moon, because we really don’t know enough about it to do so. Same thing with engineering – no one has written the basic work on how to construct things on the Moon given its unique characteristics compared to terrestrial construction standards. How high can you make your Solar power towers given the 1/6th g, no weather, and stable ground?

There’s still so much we don’t know about our Moon, and how she can be of benefit to us here on Earth. What kinds of surprises await us once we start digging into the bedrock? Can we get samples of mantle material from the Aitken Basin? Are there enormous chunks of nickel-iron asteroids waiting for us in some out of the way craters? What’s to be found in the cracks and fissures and lava tubes?

While not a book to be read from cover to cover, it is nevertheless definitive in cataloguing all of different kinds of rocks that scientists found in the samples returned to Earth. I’ll go with a solid three-quarter Moon for “Lunar Mineralogy”.

NB: The Mineralogical Society has posted a review they did of the book back in the day here (pdf).

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