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The Resource of the 21st Century April 27, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Fusion Power, Helium-3, Mare Tranquillitatis.

“We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3 to mankind,” Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China’s lunar program, told a Chinese newspaper. “Whoever first conquers the moon will benefit first.”

Russian space geologist Erik Galimov told the Russian Izvestia newspaper that NASA’s plan to colonize the moon will “enable the U.S. to establish its control of the global energy market 20 years from now and put the rest of the world on its knees as hydrocarbons run out.”

Those quotes, from an article in Wired magazine by John Lasker, give you an idea of the seriousness of the race to mine helium-3 on the moon. As a matter of fact, helium-3 is a primary motivation for colonization of the moon in the first place.

Helium-3 is used in fusion power, seen as many (including Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator Jack Schmitt, the chairman of NASA’s Advisory Council) as the ultimate fuel of the future. As the Artemis Project notes, once a fusion plant is up and running (France is hosting a test facility, and the technology is expected to be in use by 2050), one shuttle’s worth of helium-3 would power the United States for an entire year. Mind you that this is without any greenhouse gases, or the risk of fission power. The perfect nuclear power (or energy resource of any kind), in other words.

Helium-3 is rare on earth, but plentiful on the Moon. Above is a map of Helium-3 on the Moon’s surface, with a lot of it concentrated in Mare Tranquillitatis to the middle-right.

Both Russia and China have stated in various places that helium-3 is a motivation, and the quotes at the beginning here attest to their awareness of its importance.

Helium-3 is a critical element (excuse the pun) of mankind’s efforts to colonize the moon this century, and could help solve a lot of problems. It’s going to be a headline-maker and a focus of our energies for a long time, and you’ll be hearing a lot more about it both here in the near future, and elsewhere over the long-term.



1. M. Simon - April 27, 2008

Helium 3 is fools gold if this works out:

WB-7 First Plasma

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