Earth’s fossil fuel crisis has led countries to rush to mine materials on the Moon.
in the post “The Feasibility of Helium-3 Mining on the Moon”, a researcher from the Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) said that with the depletion of fossil fuels and the increase in global energy demand, the need for alternative energy sources is clear. While materials on Earth are becoming increasingly rare, many people have thought of mining on the Moon…
When Astronaut Harrison Schmitt set foot on the Moon on 12/12/1972 from Apollo 17, oil was trading at US$3.60 a barrel and oversized cars were still consuming the entire barrel of unleaded super oil , one after the other. “The Energy Crisis” is something the world has never heard of.
Image of astronaut Harrison Schmitt who landed on the Moon on December 12, 1972.
Image of astronaut Harrison Schmitt who set foot on the Moon on December 12, 1972. (Photo: NASA).
37 years later, in 2009, there is no one left to walk on the Moon, global energy consumption has almost doubled, oil reserves are rapidly running out and humanity is facing one of the biggest challenges facing the world. : Lack of energy.
As a highly trained geologist, former NASA astronaut Schmitt thinks he has a solution, that solution is called “Helium-3”. Harrison Schmitt suggested the merger might help”meet the projected eight-fold increase or more in energy demand by 2050”.
|* Helium-3 is an isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron.
In his 2006 book – “Back to the Moon” – Harrison Schmitt (the Apollo program’s own geologist) presents a compelling case for exploiting the resources of Helium-3 on our natural satellite – a viable fuel for the ganglion of thermal power plants “second generation”.
The idea of harnessing a clean and efficient form of energy from the Moon has excited science fiction and reality for the past few decades. Unlike the Earth, which is protected by its magnetic field, the Moon was bombarded with large amounts of Helium-3 by the solar wind.
It is believed that this isotope could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor because it is non-radioactive and would not produce hazardous waste, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.
Specifically, for decades scientists have been intrigued by helium-3 and its potential fuel source for nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion occurs naturally, when two light atoms fuse into a heavier atom under extreme pressure and temperature. They take place inside stars, but humans have yet to create a fusion reactor with enough energy to start this process.
The Moon was bombarded with large amounts of helium-3 by the solar wind.
The moon was bombarded by the solar wind with a large amount of helium-3 gas. (Illustration image: NASA).
Helium-3 is a super rare and super expensive material on Earth. According to the European Space Agency, helium-3 is particularly promising because it produces significantly less radioactive and nuclear waste than other elements. The current process of nuclear fission, used in nuclear power plants, releases not only energy but also radiation, spent nuclear fuel that must be reprocessed into uranium, plutonium and other waste.
It is a process that raises serious safety concerns and therefore scientists have sought to generate nuclear energy from nuclear fusion rather than fission. During smelting, no radioactive waste is generated, potentially creating a safer and more efficient fuel source.
It is estimated that approximately 25 tons of helium-3 (equivalent to the cargo capacity of a fully charged space shuttle) could power the United States for a year at current energy consumption rates. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value of $3 billion/tonne, Discovery. com information.
The company CASS (Ɲga) said that in 2018 the head of the Indian Space Research Organization, Dr Kailɑsavadivoo Sivan, said that theoretically the amount of helium-3 found on the Moon would help the global energy industry to function for at least 250 years.
Race to the moon
Helium-3 on the Moon is often considered the main reason to return to the Moon.
Asia time suppose there is a “Secret Mine War” is happening in space for helium-3 between China, the United States and possibly Russia over potential resources on the Moon.
At different times, projects to extract helium-3 from lunar soil existed in Ɲga, the United States and India. Currently, helium-3 is not exploited on Earth. It is an artificially produced tritium decay product, CASS information.
The journey to the Moon to extract this clean nuclear material continues to be motivated after in 2022 Chinese scientists announced the discovery of a rare Moon crystal, which promises to provide abundant, endless energy for Earth.
This crystal was found in lunar basalt grains collected from the Moon in 2020 and makes China the third country to discover new lunar minerals, after the United States and the Soviet Union.
The Institute of Uranium Geology in Beijing, China named the phosphate mineral Changesite- (Y), after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology, Chang’e. This crystal is transparent and the width of a human hair. It formed in an area of the Moon that was volcanically active about 1.2 billion years ago.
One of the main components found in this crystal is helium-3. This element is extremely rare on Earth, but is believed to be quite common on the Moon.
This is why many private companies and countries with space agencies have embarked on a race to mine the Moon for Helium-3.
Reports say China’s next lunar mission is set to be Hengga 6 in 2024, which will attempt to collect the first samples from the far side of the Moon – which never faces Earth.
With the successful launch of the SLS super rocket, NASA is gradually completing the prerequisite missions to send people to the Moon in 2024. Photo: NASA
Meanwhile, the American NASA is gradually implementing its Ortemis program to send people back to the Moon. It is expected that also in 2024, the United States will send 2 astronauts to the Moon.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has also considered using the Moon to support missions further into the solar system.
In addition to the traditional astronaut states, India has already indicated its interest in mining the surface of the Moon.
Private companies are also interested in using the Moon’s fuel – although possibly by extracting water, not helium-3. The Shackleton Energy Company (USA) plans to provide propellant for missions across the solar system using water on the Moon.
Some Google Lunar X-Prize teams also consider exploiting the Moon as the ultimate goal of their landers.
Difficult to succeed?
The Delft University of Technology (Netherlands) estimates that to supply 10% of global energy demand by 2040, 200 tons of helium-3 will be needed per year.
To do this, the mining speed lunar material (regolith) the gain should be 630 tons per second. This would require between 1,700 and 2,000 Helium-3 mining vehicles if you were using a Mark III miner from the University of Wisconsin, USA.
The feasibility was approached under 3 aspects.
- Technically, an extremely difficult and complex task. However, most of the required technologies exist or can be developed within a reasonable timeframe.
- From a political and legal point of view, Existing international treaties provide virtually no framework for lunar mining.
- Financially, The mission is to generate net profits only in the best of cases and only for medium to large scale operations that require a huge initial investment.
To be able to use helium-3 on the Moon, further research should focus on mining operations and smelting plant costs, as their impact far outweighs all other mission factors.
Helium-3 concentrations are thought to be between 20 and 30 parts per billion in lunar soil.
Helium-3 concentrations are thought to be around 20 to 30 parts per billion in lunar soil. (Illustration image: Internet).
Obviously, humans can get as much out of the Moon as they did in human and probe missions. However, these tasks are not easy. Because of the long distance between the Earth and the Moon.
We have examples of similar challenges here on Earth: There are between 45,000 and 1.5 million tons of gold in the Earth’s oceans. But because gold is so popular, the cost of mining it is much higher than the actual price of gold.
Similarly, the cost of delivering helium-3 from the Moon would be enormous because due to distance and low concentration. Helium-3 concentrations are thought to be around 20 to 30 parts per billion in lunar soil.
This means that much of the Moon’s surface would have to be harvested and processed to extract a quantity of helium-3 worth transporting to Earth.
And yet, according to Alexander Bloshenko, executive director of research and science programs at Roscosmos State Space Corporation (Ɲga), the fusion of helium-3 atoms requires temperatures of up to 1 billion degrees Celsius. . He does not exclude that one day in the future, humanity will think of a solution for fusion reactions at such temperatures, CASS information.
In the future, will the trip to the Moon and the regular presence of people and the vehicle system to exploit the Moon help us escape the great energy crisis? To answer this question takes a lot of time.
Article source: PNVN
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Earth’s fossil fuel crisis is pushing countries to rush to mine materials on the Moon.