Cheese For Fusion?
by, July 3rd, 2008 at 11:49 AM (1610 Views)
And you always thought the moon was made of cheese, didn't you? It turns out that there's an estimated one million tons of a form of helium, H3, just kicking around up there. What's the big deal? Where to start...
First, there's estimated to be about 15 tons of H3 on Earth. 15 vs a one and six zeroes. This makes H3 a valuable commodity on Earth. But it makes the moon even more valuable for entrepeneurial pursuits, because, seriously, a million is a lot more than 15.
Second, H3 is theoretically one of the safest ways to produce power from fusion. We don't exactly have thermonuclear reactors for H3 fusion kicking around here, we don't have the resources to sustain it, so it's not a good way to spend money on nuclear progress. But such reactors would require far less radioactive shielding and put out a vast amount of power per ounce.
It's estimated, keep in mind this is all numbers since no one's sporting one of those reactors, that 25 tons of H3 could power the US for a year. That seems like a lot, doesn't it? Think about how much fossil fuel is used yearly to supply our ever-growing power needs. So, yes, 25 tons is, in fact, 10 more than what exists on Earth, this is bad news for us.
Enter the new space race. Now that the US has declared it will be back on the moon within the next two decades, other nations, notably Russia and China at this time, are right on our heels. It is not unrealistic to think, even if it seems so right now, that there will be manned moon bases by 2025. In fact, that's exactly what all three nations have planned.
Permanent structures on the moon would expediate things like mining operations (let's hope it doesn't turn out like Total Recall) which could in turn push a new energy infrastructure not only to the US, but the world. Hurray for helium, as it were.
Granted, not only would, as previously mentioned, said reactors need to be researched and built, so would the transport infrastructure and refineries. I have no idea if H3 is dangerous or difficult to work with, but it's not as though plutonium is the friendliest of elements kicking around.
The other problem, particularly in the US, to be overcome is humanity's ridiculous fear of anything with the word "nuclear" in it. Not only is the US lagging woefully behind in nuclear technology, it's been branded such an evil word, they've had to change things like Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging to simply Magnetic Resonance Imaging just to get people to use the things. Many other countries irradiate their milk, giving it a long shelf-life and the ability to store it outside of a cooler, we're stuck with pasteuriziation because God forbid we shoot some rays at something, it'll make it Bad For Everyone!
Anyway, with Russia's new space vehicle along with NASA's underway, things are going to get very interesting in the space race in the next decade. Where do I sign up for my moon citizenship? I'll do that right after I get my cyberbrain done.