The Ecologist says that strip mining the Moon may not be science fiction.  Indeed it may come sooner than we think.  The drive to replace fossil fuels with infinite renewable energy is leading us there.

The prize is the isotope Helium-3, required to produce nuclear fusion, the Holy Grail of energy sources.  Fusion powers the Sun and the stars.

Helium-3 is very rare on Earth but exists in large quantities on the Moon.  It was discovered in lunar samples brought back from the Apollo missions in the late 1960s and 1970s. Some scientists estimate that there are more than 100 million tonnes of helium-3 on the moon – more than enough to power our planet for hundreds of years.

It may not be long before we start mining the moon for its resources, particularly the rare Helium-3 for its use in nuclear fusion…Vast quantities of the isotope Helium-3 are known to exist on the Moon, as well as in the atmospheres of planets like Jupiter, and could come into high demand as the essential fuel for the so-called ‘golden dream’ of nuclear fusion power.

Helium-3, can be extracted through heating Moon rock and collecting the gas for thermonuclear fusion reactors.

Unlike nuclear fission which we use now, fusion releases much higher amounts of energy but with very little radioactive wastes.  It is a green technology that produces an enormous amount of power. It will power our Sun for 10 to 12 billion years.

“It should produce vastly more energy than fission reactions without the problem of excessive amounts of radioactive waste”  says Matthew Genge, lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering at Imperial College London.

Science is currently in the process of creating several fusion experiments, none of which has been successful so far.  But eventually the tens of billions of dollars of research will pay off and at that point there will be a huge demand for Helium-3 and the closest place to get it is the Moon.

And a space race to mine the helium may already have started.  In 2007 four countries gave hints that they looking at sending missions to the Moon to mine it – the United States, India, China and Russia.  Russia and China believe that the country that controls the production of Helium-3 will also enjoy superpower status as the world’s dominant energy supplier.

China has since sent two orbiters to study the Moon and has plans to land a rover and bring back moon rocks by the end of the decade.  (See hereRussia says it intends to set up a permanent base on the Moon by 2015 and start mining operations by 2020.  India has also sent an orbiter to study the Moon.  Last year Japan announced plans to set up a robot Moon base by 2020.

The debt problems in the United States have curtailed much of its scientific expenditure including cutting back on NASA funding.  However, this has not stopped the introduction of a bill into the US Congress that would order NASA “to return to the Moon and develop a sustained human presence on the Moon” by 2022.  One of the reasons given for going to the Moon is to head off China and Russia.

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1 Comment on Is Man’s Energy Future on the Moon?

  1. Melissa says:

    Boy that relaly helps me the heck out.