The Importance of Helium 3: China's Chang'e 3 Moon Mission
Lift Off of Rocket Carrying China's Chang'e 3 Lunar Probe
Why Has China Gone to the Expense of Landing on the Moon?
Helium 3. Have you heard of it before? Well, get used to the term, because it is on the verge of becoming the the most controversial, consequential issue of the 21st century. At least that is my estimation. But what does this have to do with China landing on the moon?
Helium 3 is not found in any significant amounts on the earth. It is a by-product of nuclear fusion in the sun. The sun expels it in to space where it eventually lands on any celestial body without an atmosphere to deter it. That includes the moon. But what is the signicicance of helium 3?
What is the Significance of Helium 3?
The University of Wisconsin has carried out successful experiments, proving that helium 3 can be used in a nuclear fusion reaction to produce electricity with minimal radioactivity. Follow the link to the report on findings by the University of Wisconsin/Madison.
Why is Helium 3 Considered to be A Valuable Source of Energy?
Helium 3 has an energy conversion efficiency rating of 70% for the production of electricity.
gas turbine engines have an energy efficiency of 40%
gas turbines with steam-60%
Water turbine-90% (where available)
Solar-normally 15%, but often as high as 40%.
Helium 3 would be a consistently performing, clean, highly efficient, universally available form of energy. This would be different from any other source of energy we have known.
Helium 3 and Helium 4 Isotopes Compared
China is on the Moon to Prepare for Mining Helium 3
Here are some quotes from current press coverage:
"According to former astronaut/geologist Harrison Schmitt, China 'has made no secret of its ineterest in Helium-3. Schmitt observes, I would assume that this mission is both a geopolitical statement and a test of some hardware and software related to mining and processing of the lunar regolith.'" USA Today, 12/16/2013.
"Chinese scientists and experts frame the space program partially in terms of their nation’s constant quest for energy and raw materials, talking about helium-3 and solar power as potential energy sources on the moon, as well as its reserves of titanium, rare earths, uranium and thorite."
The Washington Post, December 2, 2013.
China May be the Sole Possessor of Helium 3 and all the Benefits it may Hold
China is on the moon right now. Yes, it is an unmanned mission, but they are there for one overriding reason. They are after the most efficient, the cleanest source of energy available to mankind today. China is gearing up to mine helium 3 on the moon.
What are the consequences for the rest of the world if it sits by and watches and does nothing? It seems to me that whatever country gets enough helium 3 to produce electricity for its population will relegate all other nations to third world status or worse.
Should the United States, Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, Russia, India, and others sit by and allow China to be the only possessor of this promising source of clean, efficient energy?
Wouldn't it be great if this became a one world effort in which all nations took part so that all could benefit? But it is a new goldrush I am afraid. I have no doubt that other nations as well as private companies will soon be launching their own missions, equipment and personel. But the price of not going, at least in my view, is too great.
What do you think? Leave a comment. I am very interested in having dialogue about this very important issue.
Model of ITER, an international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject
Authoritative Source, Stephen Day, Member, NASA Advisory Board
Stephen Day is a prominent business man in Washington D.C. and also has been a member of two NASA Advisory Boards. He wrote these comments in an article in June, 2009.
"It will be almost fifty years between the next human landing on the Moon and the last one on December 11, 1972. As of mid 2007, no less than six nations announced their intention to put their citizens on the Moon. The countries are the United States, Russia, Japan, the EU (ESA), China, and India. A Moon race is clearly underway, at a staggering cumulative cost exceeding one trillion (current) dollars. The first of these human lunar landings is expected to be the United States in approximately 2020, followed in short order by the other announced contenders, especially China."
"Energy. There are intriguing possibilities of energy sources that could benefit our earth-bound needs. The more obvious is solar energy that be collected and beamed to suitable collectors on Earth. A more distant but higher impact source of energy is the abundant trapped helium 3 that is present on the lunar surface or regolith. Helium 3 is a very rare isotope of helium on Earth, and is a potential ideal low neutron emitting fuel for nuclear fusion, according to many nuclear scientists. It is hoped the fusion 500 MW reactor ITER being built in France by a seven-nation consortia (US investment is ~$1 billion) will demonstrate the commercial viability of nuclear fusion by the 2020 time frame. Nuclear fusion is a strategic research initiative that currently is receiving low level annual funding in the US (DOE R&D investment ~$350 million/year."