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Lunar Helium 3 Could Meet Earth's Energy Demands 372

Posted by timothy
from the bring-back-the-rest-of-the-tang dept.
starannihilator writes "Helium 3, rare on the earth but abundant on the moon, may prove to be a feasible energy source with NASA's Moon-Mars initiative. Despite the American Physical Society's Report that the initiative harms science, the moon may actually benefit humans because it contains 10 times more energy than all the fossil fuels on earth. Long hailed as a potential source of energy, and outlined in detail by the Artemis Project, helium 3 may solve earth's energy crisis without any radioactive byproducts. The only problem: the reactor technology for converting helium 3 to energy is still in its infancy. Read more about the Artemis Project's information about fusion power from the moon here." Reader muditgarg points out that India has just hosted a global conference on Moon exploration and utilization, and adds a link to this related story on KeralaNext.
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Lunar Helium 3 Could Meet Earth's Energy Demands

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  • by hom (620969) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:36PM (#10932363)
    If we start "mining" the moon, we will never figure out how all this energy got there in the frist place. The moon belongs in a museum!
  • Sure.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by PornMaster (749461) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:38PM (#10932377) Homepage
    To transport the helium, just put it all in a balloon and drop it toward earth...

    Wait a second...
    • Re:Sure.... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Fishstick (150821) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:45PM (#10932431) Journal
      I was picturing the reactors on the moon generating the power there and then "beaming" it to the earth (via microwave, or something) where it is collected by huge dish arrays and converted to electricity.

      Only, there will have to be some failsafe to prevent the beamed energy from missing the collection dishes and vaporizing a nearby city.

      Then we can concentrate on building the arcologies.
      • Re:Sure.... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Zorilla (791636) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:55PM (#10932504)
        Our future energy plans are based on going from Llama to Cheetah, taking a shower and coming back to check up on things.
      • Re:Sure.... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tackhead (54550)
        > Only, there will have to be some failsafe to prevent the beamed energy from missing the collection dishes and vaporizing a nearby city.

        Are you nuts?! If it can't vaporize a city, how the hell are we supposed to get the funding to build it?

        Drop the failsafe and put the DoD on it. You can sneak the failsafe into the plans after we get the funding.

  • by DaHat (247651) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:38PM (#10932382) Homepage
    Even if the collection of H3 and it's conversion to useable energy was cheap... the transport costs alone would have to be killer.

    I'm all for new sources of energy... but the transport issue would seem to be the first major hurdle, long before the needed reactor.
    • by DaHat (247651)
      In my defense... It's been a long time since I gave any thought to chemical symbols.
    • If 25 tons can power the US for a year... really... it's not that difficult to move 25 tons of anything from the moon to the earth for the billions we spend on electricity a year.

      The DoE [doe.gov] says we produce about 3900 billion kilowatt hours. Electrical costs vary from place to place, but let's use the national average of about 8 cents per kilowatt hour... 312 billion dollars. Transportation costs from the moon for 25 tons don't look so huge now, do they? :)
      • Particularly if you set up a lunar mass-driver powered by either a solar collector array or a Helium-3 reactor, and just ship the stuff back to earth that way. And, once you have that in operation, you can ship other things back as well, or use the driver to launch spacecraft to other points in the Solar System.
      • It would require new transportation technology to make it cost effective. Round trips with conventional rockets carry suprisingly little. Look up the return payloads of the Apollo missions if you don't believe me.
    • The article says 25 tonnes is enought to power the US for a full year. Apollo 17 returned 110 kg of moonrock plus 3 astronauts and their equipment. Call it 1/3 of a tonne. So that makes 75 Apollo round trips to retrieve the fuel for one year of power.

      One Apollo mission cost $110 billion in today's dollars (20 billion in 1970, adjusted using the inflation calculator [westegg.com]). So the total transportation costs run about $8.25 trillion. Or about 75% of GDP. I don't know how much we spend on power, but I don't think i
      • by aldoman (670791)
        WTF? You are basing those figures off 1970 spacecraft that were designed primarily to carry people and not cargo that doesn't need a constant temperature (well, not as much as humans), humidity or oxygen.

        I'm sure we could do it for less than $10billion nowadays - automated space craft flies off, collects the Helium, and flies it back - one way. The space craft does not need to be very heavy, because all it is is effectively a huge cargo container.

        You are also forgetting that we could place the energy gene
        • You keep forgetting that the enemy always attack the lone harvester.. we'd have to send guarding ships.

          Or in other words: automatic, automatic, automatic? are you insane?
      • A lot of that cost would be involved in keeping the astronauts alive. It'd probably be cheaper if much of it could be automated (or by finding expendable employees). Doing that, of course, is left as an exercise for the reader ;)

      • by cosmo7 (325616)
        So the total transportation costs run about $8.25 trillion.

        Can I get you to do my taxes?

        Apollo didn't cost anything like $110 billion each. Have a look here. [asi.org] The entire budget for the whole Apollo program was less than $80 billion (in 1994 dollars).

        Anyway, Apollo wasn't designed to deliver 25 tonnes of Helium from the moon, so it's not surprising to see that it wouldn't be the best tool for the job. You could use Russian Progress spacecraft to deliver over a ton at a time, or actually design a spacecra
      • One Apollo mission cost $110 billion in today's dollars (20 billion in 1970...)

        I think you must have misread your source. According to the sources I can find, the entire Apollo program (including everything from Mercury on up, plus the robot missions) cost about $25 billion. As I recall, the incremental cost per flight was in the neighborhood of $500 million. (This last figure may be low; it seems to me that was the cost per Saturn V flight, not counting the cost of the "go to the moon" part of the missio
      • by Artifakt (700173) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:53PM (#10932913)
        Except that Apollo returned three astronauts, 110 Kg. of moonrocks, assorted equipment, AND the capsule that was technically the command module, AND the service modules themselves could have been included in the return weight if we weren't just letting them burn up (They certainly made it back to Earth's vicinity, if not technically Earth itself). At the very least, all those parts of the CM and SM that were just needed to keep astronauts alive and functioning can be included in weight available for cargo in an alternate design. This includes breathing mixture (and scrubbers, fans to keep air circulating, and associated wiring and controls), food and water, (and refrigeration and other associated mass), fuel for the onboard heaters (and the heaters themselves, shell insulation, etc.), plus things that aren't absolutely essential for life itself but are for the mission, i.e. onboard communications and computing gear, etc.

        Mass of the combined CSM for actual lunar landing missions was 30,329 Kg. (Encyclopedia Aeronautica).

        How much of that would be actual He3 in a cargo design is a different question. So is how fast a load of He3 has to return to Earth - Apollo was designed for short travel times, largely because of consumables limits. A tank of He3 doesn't need to worry if it takes months to get across the system.
        Realistically, our costs would be those to put a crew on the Moon, sustain them for the time needed to 'mine' He3, and bring them home, plus the costs to put a delivery system for the He3 into place, whether it's one big capsule with all elements including its fuel shipped up from Earth, or a bunch of 10 gallon barrels with cheap transponders, spray on ablative shields and a local He3 powered mass driver throwing them at the Pacific recovery zone.

        At pragmatically foreseeable levels of technology, we have to ship some people there and back at least once to get our 25 tons, but we don't necessarily have to ship people back and forth every time we move some He3. If they can process a 20 year supply in a few weeks on the Moon we could be talking about sending up and recovering one living crew, once, for the total life of the program.
        Costs might vary widely depending on what percentage of pods you can recover with a given design - maybe cheap ones that we lose 50% to reentry stresses would still actually work out cheaper overall. Can we make He3 tight barrels out of material already found on the Lunar surface? Haven't the foggiest - We don't even know how to get a sustained fusion reaction out of the stuff yet.

        If you figure the personnel costs might be only a share of a larger project, to put people on the Moon for several reasons and not just this one, the project requires less to justify itself (but the overall committment required becomes bigger, naturally). Depending on just what methods are possible, transportation costs may be a deal killer, or quite workable.
    • by Fyre2012 (762907) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:57PM (#10932524) Homepage Journal


      Wouldn't something like this [slashdot.org] work nicely?

    • No, the reactor tech comes first. Transport is easy. With present day tech, you can move enough to supply world energy demand for far less than the cost of equal fossl fuels.

      RTFA's.
      Quantities required are very small.
      Rail gun.
      Reactor powered transport burns same fuel it carries, much like gasoline tank trucks

      It's gonna happen for ONE REASON. It's a friggin MONEY MACHINE!

    • A solar powered mass driver could move the H3 into Earth orbit quite easily. These are the top three URL's from my google for "mass drivers"

      http://www.permanent.com/t-massdr.htm

      http://www.permanent.com/t-massdr.htm

      http://www.spacecolonization.com/massdrivers.htm

      Besides a scientific station, this would be another reason for a permanent colony on the moon.

    • That would be easy, ever dropped anything from an overpass on passing cars? It's not much different. A little boost to get it going after that it's a mater of dropping it in the right spot.

      Of course getting there in the first place is the hard part.

    • by delong (125205)
      I'm all for new sources of energy... but the transport issue would seem to be the first major hurdle, long before the needed reactor.

      Well, if we've reached reactor feasibility, present transportation costs would be irrelevant. We'd have fusion powered rockets available to use for transport between Earth orbit and the Moon. The rockets would be able to be reusable, long-term cargo taxis, possibly drastically reducing cost. Fusion power would revolutionize everything, from the energy economy to space tra
    • I think building commercially viable FUSION reactors to fuse all the He3 is a much bigger problem still than mining and transporting the stuff to the Earth.

      Last time I checked we were still "50" years away from a commercially practical fusion reactor.

  • by jmcmunn (307798) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:39PM (#10932391)

    That all of that cheese up there would be the fuel that saved the Earth!

    BTW, I thought cheese generally produced methane when broken down?
    • It is critical that we liberate the moon's cheese supply. The U.S.'s dependence on foreign cheese as a source of garnishing is beyond absurd, it's a stance where the slightest change in the powder keg that is Italian politics could send the price of mozerella skyrocketing! Our citizens deserve better than to be beholden to the interests of a foreign government bent on removing our right to a three-cheese blend pizza with stuffed crust.

      For the sake of our country and that of our children, the CHEESE MUST

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...can be found in the Methane from Uranus. Talk about renewable. In spades.
  • Interesting... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FrogofTime (826941)
    So we're going to fly to the moon, pick up some feul, and hopfully fly back without any problems. Can the ship carry more helium 3 than the feul it needs to get there and back? Otherwise it seems like a compleate waste.
    • So we're going to fly to the moon, pick up some feul, and hopfully fly back without any problems. Can the ship carry more helium 3 than the feul it needs to get there and back? Otherwise it seems like a compleate waste.

      1000s of scientists start to sob "daimn! we didn't think of that..."
  • Right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SamMichaels (213605)
    Let's replace a problematic energy source with another problematic energy source.

    1) Who owns the moon? Does the American flag mean we own it?
    2) It's non-renewable. It'll run out.
    3) It's the MOON!
    • I was going to post those exact three points, but since you already did it, I just can say that We like da Moon [rathergood.com].
    • That brings up a good point. Sure, H3 may be 10 times as potent, but what if there's only 1/10th as much H3 availible on the moon as there is crude oil on Earth? Without even factoring transport costs in, there is no advantage.

      • For the RTFA impaired, this about sums it up. I hope 150 words or so isn't too much.
        • In their 1988 paper, Kulcinski, et al. (see ref note below), estimate a total of 1,100,000 metric tonnes of He3 have been deposited by the solar wind in the lunar regolith. .... That 1 million metric tonnes of He3, reacted with deuterium, would generate about 20,000 terrawatt-years of thermal energy. .... That's about 10 times the energy we could get from mining all the fossil fuels on Earth, without the smog and acid ra
    • Re:Right. (Score:5, Informative)

      by confused one (671304) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:58PM (#10932526)
      1.) probably some international treaty says no-one owns it; however, as the saying goes, possession is 9/10th's... 2.) actually, it is renewable. The He3 actually comes from the sun... The moon surface just happens to be efficient at capturing it; and, is conveniently close. 3.) So? It's just 270M miles over that way.
      • 270M miles? I don't think so. More like 250K miles. The sun is 93 mil miles. The moon isn't further than the sun!

    • Re:Right. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vector_prime (575757) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:05PM (#10932566)
      1) There are _maybe_ 5 entities in existance today (US, China, EU, Russia, India; and the last two are iffy) with the technology to actually even try to mine the moon. So three nations able to send perhaps two dozen men each to a planet, I doubt territorial disputes will be an issue.

      2) Yes, it'll run out. In 10,000 years (RTFA), that's about the scope of human history thus far.

      3) Yes, it's the moon. It's a big, cold, dead rock. We can mine to our heart's content and not destroy an ecosystem or create a health hazard for a small mining town. If we have to exploit something, I'd prefer it be the moon to the earth any day.
      • Re:Right. (Score:4, Funny)

        by anagama (611277) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:37PM (#10932800) Homepage

        • 3) Yes, it's the moon. It's a big, cold, dead rock. We can mine to our heart's content and not destroy an ecosystem or create a health hazard for a small mining town. If we have to exploit something, I'd prefer it be the moon to the earth any day.


        As a vegan wiccan spirtual guide, with a deep knowledge of naturopathic wisdom, a solid foundation in crystal theory and application, and strong belief that humans not part of the natural world (and should therefor leave it alone) - I implore you to leave the moon in peace. She is a sweet silver virgin - it would be the height of hubris to allow her rape by man. We should all return to nature, live in the forest, and let mother earth and her moon sister guide our life choices.

  • So, we go through another crisis when the helium runs out?
  • Moon Pie in the sky.....

    Once upon a time, on a moon, not too far away....
  • So for this entire scheme to work, we must first solve the fusion reactor problem. But once that problem is solved, why do we need to go all the way to the moon when we have the oceans? Is Helium-3 that much easier to fuse and create energy?
    • "Is Helium-3 that much easier to fuse and create energy?"

      No. It's harder. It requires higher temperatures, and better containment. The only advantage when used for terrestrial uses would be the lower neutron production as compared to reactions like Deuterium-Tritium (D+He3 still produces neutrons from unwanted D+D reactions).

      Deuterium-Tritium produces neutrons, but the only radioactive stuff left behind is the reactor itself, and the isotopes in question have shortish half lives (tens of years for the mos
  • Sounds Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 31415926535897 (702314) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:44PM (#10932427) Journal
    Here are my couple of thoughts on the subject. First, it seems like obtaining the Helium-3 would be prohibitively expensive. We would need something like a space elevator first before we could really start shuttling this stuff back to earth. I guess the other option is to build a reactor on the moon and beam the energy back to earth (but we all know how dangerous that is based on SimCity, right?).

    One thing that doesn't sit easy with me wrt this is that even though there is 10x more energy in Helium-3 on the moon compared to 'fossil' fuels here on earth, I have a feeling that we would still deplete it relatively quickly (with exponential population growth and all).

    I think that ultimately the answer is going to have to be with solar energy, since that is an incredible source of energy for a long time. But, whether it's looking for efficient means of converting solar energy to something usable, or transporting the Helium-3 from the moon, it's going to take the price of gas skyrocketing before people cry for a change. I just hope that by that point it's not too late.
  • Nice idea, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by calidoscope (312571) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:45PM (#10932432)
    The D-He3 reaction does have the advantage of producing a lot less neutrons than the "standard" D-T reaction. The fact that most of the energy is being carried away by a charged particle is also a potential big plus.

    On the gripping hand, I do have a friend whose PhD thesis was the chemistry of moon rocks - and her opinion was that mining He3 would be impractical.

  • by Freedryk (117435) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:50PM (#10932463)

    The problem with all these plans to "solve the energy problem" is that they ignore the fact that human energy demand is constantly growing, and growing exponentially. It's the same problem that we have with hard drives; in 1990, my 40MB hard drive was barely enough space. In 2004, my 320GB RAID array is barely enough space. Unless we control the demand for energy, all the new energy sources in the solar system won't solve the problem.


    At least, as far as non-renewable resources go. Solar energy, coupled with a focus on efficiency and maybe some population control, would do far more to solve our energy problems than mining space for Helium-3. It would be safer and easier as well. Why go to the moon for energy when the sun delivers it for free?

    • by HeghmoH (13204) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:50PM (#10932883) Homepage Journal
      In general, standard of living is directly proportional to energy consumption. This may not hold completely true, and conservation may help. However, conservation tends to be on the order of saving 5% here, 10% there. Increases in energy usage, on the other hand, are often orders of magnitude. I want my standard of living to keep going up. The only way to stop demand from growing is to freeze everything the way it is today, and I don't like that idea at all.
  • by RsG (809189) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:50PM (#10932465)
    ... is that the energy in question comes from thermonuclear fusion, and fusion can be done with terrestrial elements. We don't _need_ he3 to build fusion power plants; we can build them with deuterium/tritium fuel, or even just deuterium alone. Moreover, D/T fusion only requires plasma temperatures about a tenth those of D/He3 fusion. IIRC D/D fusion is also somewhat more attainable than D/He3 (and uses an incredibly abundant fuel available on Earth - deuterium is a stable hydrogen isotope available in quantity from seawater).

    The only disadvantage of hydrogen isotope fusion is radioactivity. D/T spits out fast neutrons, while D/D can produce radio-isotopes (I think - someone correct me if I've remembered wrong). Neither technology produces hazardous nuclear waste however, and the radioactivity in question would be very short lived, cooling in decades to centuries, rather than millennia. Moreover, in D/T reactor designs, the only radiation is in the core itself, and said neutron radiation can be used to "breed" tritium fuel. Disposing of fusion waste long term, either by sealing the decommissioned cores, or storing the D/D reaction products, is easier than importing he3 fuel from the moon.
    • The attractive thing about fusion with deuterium and helium-3 is that the main reaction does not produce neutrons. There are side reactions that will still produce neutrons, but overall I think the process is cleaner. Neutrons wlll irradiate the surrounding structures of any fusion plant :(

      Recently, BBC News reported that Europe might finally get on with the job of building ITER [iter.org] - the next stage of fusion power plant development. I believe ITER will use D/T fuel.

      • I touched on neutron activation in my post. And yes, He3 is much to be preferred from a radioactivity standpoint.

        But to go all the way to the moon, build extraction facilities there, build more complicated reactors here, and transport the fuel back to earth just to avoid a little radioactivity? Sorry, that just seems excessive. If we established moonbases for other reasons, like purely scientific research, and wanted to build cleaner reactors earthside using imported lunar fuel, it would make more sense
    • The moon is basically vacuum. That means that it is far easier to control temperatures. You can cool super conducting magnets VERY easily... and high temperatures don't "leak" as badly to the surrounding area. I bet it would be easier to build a fusion reactor with the vacuum aspect "free"
      • Good point.

        However, that would leave you with the problem of getting the power back to earth. The article is talking about build reactors groundside, and transporting the fuel back, not building them on the moon and beaming back tht power. If we could beam the power back, why not build solar stations in orbit (a la SimCity) and save ourselves some effort? Granted, they'd be less powerful, but also a hell of a lot cheaper, and since real estate in space is not an issue, we could build as many as we liked
  • While there may be a fair amount of He3 on the moon, extracting it is dangerous and very labour intensive. On the other hand, I have read that it would be far easier to collect He3 from Uranus atmosphere, even though the distance is significantly greater. Collection from Uranus could be totally automated too. Another source could be Saturn. See here [mines.edu].
  • Last I checked, the presense of He3 on the moon was only hypothetical. Did I miss something? Did any recent probe data indicate significant quantities of He3 in lunar soil?

    Then there is the other problem. We don't have practical fusion power yet. Even questionably break-even research projects are focused on Deutrium/Tritium fusion. Is anyone doing He3 for real? My understanding is that it is harder to start than DT.

    While I'm at it, I might as well throw a little more salt in the wound. He3 is not
  • I think a more realist view is that future generation will need that energy to support colonies on the moon and for travel around the solar system and other stars. Rather then try to bring it all back to earth.

  • ..just less so. If you look up current and previous fusion reactors, you'll find that the liners and other parts of the reactor become "hot" after a while because they are pelted by stray neutrons. One of the things ITER is supposed to help find are find materials that don't become so radioactive.
  • by prichardson (603676) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:52PM (#10932492) Journal
    I see a lot of posts complaining of the cost of flying to the moon to pick this stuff up. I think everyone needs the think about how cheap it would be to just drop this stuff on earth in a nice metal container. In this case gravity works in out favor. All the stuff has to do is escape the moons relatively light gravitational pull.

    It's another matter entirely decided how to safely drop this stuff, and the politics behind this.

    Keep in mind this is not a solve-our-wimpy-economy-slipping-a-little thing. It's a when-we-run-out-of-really-old-dead-things-to-burn kind of solution.
    • by Markus Registrada (642224) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @04:23PM (#10933097)
      Never mind the helium-3. The amount of gravitational potential energy in moon rock is billions of times as much as could be got from the H3. Just boost it off the moon and catch it in low-earth orbit. I think Donald Kingsbury did a write-up.

      Of course "catching" it without destroying the catching mitt demands some cleverness, but you have to be pretty clever to begin with to hit it at all.

  • I know this is a naive thought, but I think we would all be best served by not turning the moon into a natural resource farm. First off, what happens if we strip mine that sucker and change its mass significantly? What are the chances of it being pulled in by the Earths gravity?

    After thinking about all this, I was reminded of an anime called Planet ES, which deals with the near future when man has begun migrating to space and inhabiting the moon. The wealthiest countries reaped all the rewards, and the u

    • > What are the chances of it being pulled in by the Earths gravity?

      As it stands now, the moon is moving four inches away from the earth every year. All we have to do is extract mass at a rate which would cause it to stay in its current orbit, and we'd be good to go.
    • Re:Off limits? (Score:5, Informative)

      by System.out.println() (755533) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:26PM (#10932702) Journal
      First off, what happens if we strip mine that sucker and change its mass significantly? What are the chances of it being pulled in by the Earths gravity?

      Consider how large the moon is.... Now consider the odds that we could change that in any remotely significant way by mining H3. Get back to me.

      Oh, and while you're at it, go read up on orbital physics. changing the moon's mass would not in any way affect its distance from earth. What might affect it (again, in a very, very slight way) would be the rockets firing off from it to return the stuff to earth. Even if that does become a problem (which would likely push the moon away from us, rather than towards), just start launching from the other side and coming around.
  • now the Chinese will be racing to establish a permanent presence on the moon just so they can claim it for themselves.
  • We can't even achieve a controlled deuterium or tritium based reaction.

    IIRC, the heavier an element is the harder it is to get it to fuse. (Probably the main thing is the number of protons, which translates to increased electrostatic repulsion between the nuclei.)

    Honestly, He3 doesn't seem to be that big of a deal to me. Hydrogen isotope based reactions are going to be easier to achieve, and while they produce some radiation, the radiation problem of hydrogen fusion is insignificant compared to that of
  • Seen it before (Score:5, Informative)

    by delibes (303485) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:55PM (#10932511)
    Here [slashdot.org].

    Problems:

    • The concentration of He3 in the lunar surface may be very low. It could require processing many 100's of tonnes to get a gram/ounce/drop-in-the-ocean of He3. Of course, you could build an automated solar powered mining facility on the lunar surface to do it. You'd need serious $$$ though.
    • Getting it back to Earth might be a pain. You could probably wrap it up in some aluminium projectile also mined on the moon, and fire it at Earth with a linear induction track or somthing. The projectile could have an ablative heat shield to protect the tiny precious cargo. More $$$ though.
    • You need an efficient fusion power plant to 'burn' the stuff in and convert the heat to electrical energy.
    Rather than using it on earth to generate electricity, it might be better used as a propellant for interplanetary spacecraft. The British Interplanetary Society once had plans for something called Daedalus which I think was designed to use He3 mined from the atmosphere of Jupiter. Is that even crazier?
  • by kalidasa (577403) * on Saturday November 27, 2004 @02:57PM (#10932519) Journal
    The counterargument to the APS's "report" shouldn't be "but we could solve the energy crisis," it should be "you're a bunch of self-serving, near-sighted idiots who seem to think that scientific funding *has to be* a zero-sum game. Do you realize that in the minds of many people, the bucks for probes is in part justfied by the Buck Rogers of manned space flight? Do you understand how much more fruitful it would be for planetologists to actually get to study the moon, Mars, etc. *in situ*? Do you realize that expanding the world economy into the solar system could have countless beneficial effects on all the sciences, on our standards of living, on our philosophical view of the universe? Or is protecting your research grant that much more important to you than the universe itself?"
  • I have a couple of thoughts on the subject.

    1.) Where exactly in the moon is the Helium-3 located? I read the article but did not see mention of exactly where the stuff is. Is it in moon rock? Does the moon have an ultra thin atmosphere of this stuff?

    2.) Putting a metric buttload of really good Helium in a ship and blasting it towards Earth where it will reenter the atmosphere at very high temperatures doesn't seem like a good idea. If anything happens, say a leak of the helium that caused an explosion
  • by DarkHelmet (120004) * <.mark. .at. .seventhcycle.net.> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:02PM (#10932552) Homepage
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium_3 [wikipedia.org]

    The article there appears to be a stub, so here's hoping that those slashdotters that know a little more on the subject can contribute.

    Help the wiki!

  • but I've always thought that the whole lunar Helium 3 mining scheme was reaching. I have no doubt that we could, if funding were put into it, develop a lunar He3 mining system, a lot of good ideas have been kicking around in the 35 years since the Apollo 11 landing, but there's the little matter of the reactor. The He3/Deuterium reaction requires higher temperatures than does Tritium/Deuterium, which we haven't gotten working yet either. So if someone made some massive breakthrough in fusion research that p
  • by digital.prion (808852) on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:11PM (#10932616)
    What I keep wondering is why hasn't anyone looked at HEAT. If we could harness direct heat to energy conversion via quantum conversion then we could simply drill into the GROUND drop pure diamond collectors (made via CVD for solid state energy conversion) and connected via nanotubing and have an abundent source of energy for at least a few millions years...

    Think about it. It's clean. It's efficient. And it can be found in every country of the world!

    Here's a link: http://quantum.soe.ucsc.edu/publications/01_02/Mic ro1-JHT02.pdf

    What do YOU think? Is it a viable solution?

    Cheers!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 27, 2004 @03:20PM (#10932656)
    I think it's about time we bring our democracy values and love of freedom to the moon.
  • This reminds me Dilithium moons in the Star Trek universe. I never imagined that we would discover a fuel source from our moon.

    I believe that the HE3 on the moon will be the catalyst for the eventual colonization of the Moon and Teraforming/colonization of Mars.

  • Seriously, if the moon is such an abundant source of energy, Why not just build an an energy processing plant up there and get some lunar bases running? Then just wrap it in a giant bubble ala Spaceballs and work on developing a sustainable atmosphere,

    If we can manage that much, maybe going to mars might seem a lot more realistic to those of us who think it can't be done.
  • I've heard people talk about He-3 forever, but I have never once seen anything remotely like hard numbers showing the concentration of He-3 on the lunar surface.

    I'd be extremely skeptical of this until someone shows some real discussion (i.e. not just puff-pieces on space.com) as to why this is feasible. Anyone? Of course, you also have to show that fusion using He-3 can be done (it's harder than D-T fusion, which we still haven't mastered, I might add).

  • I find it amazing... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rick Genter (315800) <rick.genterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Saturday November 27, 2004 @06:57PM (#10933955) Homepage Journal
    ...that people actually question the effect mining Helium-3 on the Moon would have on the Earth w.r.t. tides and such. How can so many people have no clue as to just how big the Moon is?

    The article stated that 200 million metric tons of lunar soil would have to be mined to extract 1 metric ton of Helium-3. It also stated that there is an estimated 1 million tons of Helium-3 on the Moon. Do the math:
    200 x 10**6 x 1 x 10**6
    200 x 10**12
    or 200 trillion tons (billion if you're British ;-) of lunar soil to extract all of the Moon's Helium-3.

    The Moon masses approximately 7.4 x 10**22 kg [hypertextbook.com]. So we're talking about extracting 200 x 10**15 kg (1 metric ton = 1000 kg) from 7.4 x 10**22 kg, or about 2.7 millionths of the Moon's mass.

    And that's if we take it all . And that's assuming that we don't develop a more efficient means of extracting the Helium-3 over the next few thousand years.

    I really wish people would use their brains more than they do...
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday November 28, 2004 @04:24PM (#10938754)
    Helium-3 may be the power source of the future, but we should probably figure out how to use it for that purpose first. All it's good for now is making people sound like chipmunks.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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