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Space Science

China to Land on Moon Around 2017 293

Posted by Zonk
from the we're-whalers-on-the-moon-we-carry-a-harpoon dept.
smooth wombat writes "China has announced that it plans to land on the moon around the year 2017. They also plan to set up a moon-based astronomical telescope, measure the thickness of the moon's soil as well as the amount of helium-3 on the moon. Helium-3 is regarded by some researchers as the perfect non-polluting fuel source. China's first lunar orbiter could blast off as early as 2007, coinciding with its third manned space trip in which possibly three men would orbit Earth in Shenzhou VII and conduct a space walk."
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China to Land on Moon Around 2017

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  • by Rei (128717) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:08PM (#13954637) Homepage
    Helium-3 is really just an excuse. We can make all the helium-3 we want here on earth for much cheaper than it would ever be from the moon.

    Helium-3 is a decay product of tritium (which has a reasonable half-life). Tritium can be produced by neutron bombardment of lithium targets. That's what it takes to make the stuff here on Earth

    What about on the moon? Its crust is only 20 ppm helium. That's just helium, though - He3 is 10 ppb. That's a tiny, tiny amount of He3. Given that mining, refining, and shipping costs in extraterrestrial environments are going to be preposterously high for the near future, realistic recovery is just right out.

    What about its applications? First off, first-gen nuclear reactors aren't going to be able to burn He3. You'd have to scale up something like ITER far beyond its already gargantuan size to think about getting that sort of confinement. Some potential reactors, such as inertial electrostatic fusion or focus fusion, should be able to scale to generate power from He3 (if they were able to pass break-even - a big if). Yet, such reactors could be similarly scaled to use B11+p fusion, which is a much better proposition than He3 fusion.

    So, I don't hold much credence for He3 fusion, and even less for getting it from the moon.
  • by agrippa_cash (590103) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:11PM (#13954663) Homepage
    "We come in peace for all mankind."
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:45PM (#13954894) Homepage Journal
    "sits on wast dollar reserves. and can easily drive the value of dollar down the drain and/or raise the US interest rate a few points."
    You see that is the funny thing. If China drove down the value of the dollar then cheap stuff from china wouldn't be cheap! The less reason for jobs to be out sourced and production would shift back to the US. China can not afford to devalue the dollar or have it's currency go up. The last thing they want is to become a consumer economy instead of an exporting one. What you think would hurt the US would actually in the long run help it.
  • He-3 Not Feasible (Score:4, Informative)

    by LordMyren (15499) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:48PM (#13954911) Homepage
  • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:49PM (#13954918)
    China has always been a poor farming country until recently.

    Poor farming countries tend not to be able to carry out voyages with a fleet of over 300 ships of which some are the size of a small aircraft carrier [wikipedia.org], halfway around the world (and some say all the way around the world [telegraph.co.uk]) nearly 100 years before Columbus.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 04, 2005 @08:55PM (#13954954)
    It may not be able to directly Bose-Condense, but it *does* form a superfluid. (see the Nobel Prize given to Lee, Richardson, and Osheroff). It was, I believe, the first experiment to observe fermions forming a condensate like structure. They're believed to condense via in a cooper-pair like method.

    Fermi condensates have now been made. Debbie Jin and her collaborators at JILA in Boulder made them a couple of years ago.

    Relevant links are here: http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/1996/press .html [nobelprize.org]
    and here: http://jilawww.colorado.edu/~jin/introduction.html [colorado.edu]
  • Re:Vapor hardware (Score:3, Informative)

    by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday November 04, 2005 @09:08PM (#13955044) Journal
    That's assuming they do it the same way that NASA did--namely, one big rocket to heft everything up into orbit.

    Suppose, instead, that they lift the rocket engine and fuel into orbit on one Long March. Then send the crew up in another Long March with the lander, etc. The crew gets into orbit, docks with the rocket engine, fires the engine and heads to the moon.

    NASA didn't do it that way the first time around, though I believe they're going to do it that way this time around.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Friday November 04, 2005 @11:13PM (#13955613)
    It's profitable to remember that these super smart academics missed Mars by failing to know the difference between metric and English units.


    Actually, Lockheed Martin Engineering's team used the English system while Nasa was expecting Metric:
    http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9909/30/mars.metric. 02/ [cnn.com]

    Besides standard being an idiotic system and that even England switch away from it's own system in measuring many things, most people learn in 6th grade science class to use Metric dealing with science.

    It seems engineers in Lockheed dropped the ball, not the Ivory Tower academics at Nasa.
  • Re:Vapor hardware (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 05, 2005 @12:36AM (#13955954)
  • by tuomas_kaikkonen (843958) * on Saturday November 05, 2005 @05:41AM (#13956744) Homepage
    Quoting Wikipedia on Helium [wikipedia.org]:
    "On Earth it is created by the radioactive decay of much heavier elements (alpha particles are helium nuclei produced by the decay of uranium). After its creation, part of it is trapped with natural gas in concentrations up to 7% by volume. It is extracted from the natural gas by a low temperature separation process called fractional distillation."

    Perhaps the Helium in Moon is trapped similarly in natural gas. OTHO, if there is natural gas in the moon, wouldn't that be a better source of fuel (with current technology)?

    Quoting Wikipedia on Moon [wikipedia.org]:
    "The lunar crust is composed of a variety of primary elements, including uranium, thorium, potassium, oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, titanium, calcium, aluminum and hydrogen. When bombarded by cosmic rays, each element bounces back into space its own radiation, in the form of gamma rays. Some elements, such as uranium, thorium and potassium, are radioactive and emit gamma rays on their own. However, regardless of what causes them, gamma rays for each element are all different from one another -- each produces a unique spectral "signature", detectable by a spectrometer.
    A complete global mapping of the Moon for the abundance of these elements has never been performed. However, some spacecraft have done so for portions of the Moon; Galileo did so when it flew by the Moon in 1992. [3] The overall composition of the Moon is believed to be similar to that of the Earth other than a depletion of volatile elements and of iron."

    Wikipedia does not even mention Helium, but it mentions hydrogen. Is Wikipedia's Moon article up to date?
  • by tuomas_kaikkonen (843958) * on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:10AM (#13956783) Homepage
    According to the Finnish Wikipedia on Moon [wikipedia.org], 25% of the Moon's athmosphere consists of Helium gas. I do not see how this gas could be "mined". Perhaps they could just somehow collect it?
  • by tuomas_kaikkonen (843958) * on Saturday November 05, 2005 @06:49AM (#13956850) Homepage
    According to the People's Daily English Edition of May 20th, 2005 [people.com.cn] the original goal was to go to Moon in 2010. They also write more in details of what they are planning on mapping.

    "The satellite is to be launched into lunar orbit for comprehensively probing into rich resources on the moon such as He3, Fe, Ti and water-ice, as well as its surface condition, landforms, geologic structure and physical fields through remote sensing. "

    Later that article mentions the three step goals as:
    "Another two deputy chief designers of Shenzhou III spacecraft revealed a three-step plan of China's first manned spaceflight:
    [1] Take Chinese astronauts into space;
    [2] create a space laboratory;
    [3] and establish China's space station and establish a connection with international space stations. "

    Looks like the Moon base and telescope were recent additions to the three step plan. In November 8, 2003 the Xinhua News Agency [china.org.cn] reported these four goals for Moon program:
    " For the first goal, there will be three-dimensioned graphs of the lunar surface.
    Basic structures and physiognomy units of the lunar surface will be defined precisely. Researches on the shape, size, distribution, and density will be made on the crates on the moon. These researches on the crates will produce data for identifying the age of the surface and early history of terrestrial planets and provide information needed to select the sites selecting for soft landing on the moon surface and for the lunar base.

    The second goal is concentrating on the distribution and types of elements.
    It will be focused on the content and distribution of 14 elements such as titanium and iron which can be exploited. A map of elements distribution around the moon will be sketched. Graphs for lunar rocks, mineral materials and geology will also be drawn respectively. The area rich in specific elements will be identified. And prospects of the development and exploitation of the mineral resources will be evaluated.

    The third goal is to detect the depth of the lunar soil through microwave radiation.
    In this way we can calculate the age of the lunar surface and distribution of the lunar soil on the lunar surface. This lays a foundation for the further estimates of the content, distribution, and quantity of helium-3 which is power generating fuel caused by nuclear fusion.

    The fourth goal is focused on the space environment between the earth and the moon.
    The average distance between the earth and the moon is 380 million km, which is in the earth's far magnetotail. Here the satellite probes solar energetic particles, plasma in solar wind, and the interaction between the solar wind and the moon and between the tail of the magnetic field of the earth and the moon. " Then of course we have to look at Chinanews 2005-11-01 [chinanews.cn] article that sums up the most recent plans: "China will consider manned lunar landing after 2017". ...
    " As for when the first Chinese astronaut will set foot on the moon, Ouyang said China will be capable of realizing manned lunar landing between 2020 and 2025. After that, China will also plan to build a base on the moon. "

  • by pnewhook (788591) on Saturday November 05, 2005 @08:41AM (#13957056)
    In the real world, a lot of engineering gets done in standard, particularly in the US. The reason? If I walk to the hardware store, they are gonna sell me a 2"x4" piece of wood, not 40mm X 90mm. The same is true for metal, screws, bolts, even the specifications for things like motors and sensors.
    Well I'm an engineer in the real would and pretty much everything is done in metric. Look at your car sometime. It doesn't matter if it is an American car or not, every bolt in there is a metric bolt. Cylinder heads are measured in mm. Volume in cc's. The only time I have to use imperial is when dealing with a small machine shop that hasn't updated their equipment yet. In construction even a 2x4 isn't 2" x 4". It's a historical naming convention.

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