Copyright © 2004 by Robert Dyck. Published by The Mars Society with permission.
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Any industrial effort in space will need aluminum, but the usual ore on Earth is bauxite. That mineral is formed by tropical rain forests; igneous minerals are weathered by water into hydrated minerals such as clay, then the tropical ecosystem depletes elements they need leaving iron oxide, silicon dioxide, and aluminum oxide. Those three oxides together are bauxite. Technically bauxite is a stone and the exact mineral form of each oxide varies from deposit to deposit. We aren't going to find a tropical rain forest on the Moon or Mars, so we have to get aluminum from an igneous mineral.