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Moon Space Science

Russia to Mine on the Moon by 2020 145

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the no-shortage-of-volunteer-workers dept.
sxmjmae writes to tell us News.com is reporting that Russia has unveiled plans to establish a permanent mining operation on the moon by 2020 in order to extract the rare isotope Helium-3. From the article: "Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope of helium that can be used in nuclear fusion. Rare on earth but plentiful on the moon, it is seen by some experts as an ideal fuel because it is powerful, non-polluting and generates almost no radioactive by-product."
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Russia to Mine on the Moon by 2020

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  • by Tha_Big_Guy23 (603419) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:38PM (#14562138)
    Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way...

    In Soviet Russia, the moon mines you...
  • by topical_surfactant (906185) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:38PM (#14562139)
    ...good luck getting there. Moon landings require the combustion of huge piles of money.
  • Haven't they seen THIS!!!!

    For real, super scary..
    • LOL forgot the = sign

      This is what I was referring to...
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0268695/ [imdb.com]
    • This is scary why? This is great science being put forward. The moon is just a big rock spinning around the earth, if we mine it it'll be no different than mining our own planet.

      Of course I can bet there will be some rediculous disputes where certain people will claim the moon belongs to the US or something..
      • According to Wikipedia, a treaty was proposed to "restrict the exploitation of the Moon's resources" and was signed by a number of countries, none of those countries, however, being among the space-faring nations. So perhaps Russia is on solid ground, legally speaking, at least, as would be the U.S. if they proposed a similar endeavor. Space Race version 2.0, anyone?
        • Let me get this straight. A bunch of countries that can't mine the moon said that they wouldn't?

          1) Refuse to mine the moon
          2) ???
          3) Profit!

          Cool.

          I also refuse to mine the moon! ... Am I a country now?
    • I think you mean THIS! [space1999.org]
  • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:40PM (#14562160)

    Some more information about this endeavor can be found here [pravda.ru].
  • I love russia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inter alias (947885) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:40PM (#14562165) Journal
    Even if they don't make it there (I think they will), they will reinvigorate the space race. I hope.
    • Re:I love russia (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:53PM (#14562296) Homepage
      You said it before I could- I was thinking the same thing. Wouldn't it be nice if the US launched a science education initiuative in response to this?
      Maybe I am an idealist, but what if all the countries of the world got all their best minds together in a sort of Manhatten Project to find alternative sources of clean energy, and had the technology be open source?
      • Re:I love russia (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Grishnakh (216268)
        You're an idealist, and that's simply not realistic. If everyone worked together, certain countries wouldn't be able to exercise their power over other countries. In addition, if alternative sources of energy were found which were plentiful, then the world order would utterly collapse.

        For instance, the USA wouldn't be able to keep their dollar overvalued by maintaining control over a scarce energy commodity (oil). Its economy would collapse, and would never recover since, with a devalued dollar (in relat
        • Re:I love russia (Score:3, Insightful)

          by T-Ranger (10520)
          As the US is a net importer of oil, reduction in oil consumption would, if anything, increase the value of the dollar.
          • As the US is a net importer of oil, reduction in oil consumption would, if anything, increase the value of the dollar.

            Reduction of the US's consumption, sure. Reduction of the world's consuption would hurt the US. One of the dollar's strengths is that it is used as a reserve currency, because most countries only trade oil for dollars. Not Euros, not Yen, not anything else. Not even their own currency for the most part.

            No more oil = considerably less demand for dollars = the US is screwed.

        • You forget that the USA has some of the richest farmland in the world, with relatively low population density. It's in one of the best positions against surviving any kind of catastrophic collapse in global world order. Now Japan, with huge population density, stuck on a barren rock, is walking in a different set of shoes. Technically you could mass produce ammonia, proteins, sugar, etc. in chemical factories to feed the population if you had plenty of energy, such as fusion, no wonder they fought so desper
        • Re:I love russia (Score:3, Informative)

          by hustlebird (908138)
          By no means am i trying to troll here, but i would love to see links proving that the united state imports the majority of its food. But i will be the first to admit that i live in a highly agricultural state (illinois - granted, not population wise, but land consumption wise), and with the united states offering such incredible tax grants, they definately make it seems like we're feeding a good amount of the world.

          I was definately under the impression that the us exports alot more of their agriculture th

        • Re:I love russia (Score:2, Interesting)

          by hustlebird (908138)
          Sorry to post again, but i'd also like to know where you found that the two main professions in the USA were Lawyers and real estate agents, i could not find this anywhere either (actually looked through the Occupational Outlook Handbook for something, to which i could find nothing)... Please back this up, because quite frankly this sound like entirely BS..
          • This is Slashdot. You actually expect everything here to be well-researched?

            Anyway, by the numbers, no, lawyers and real estate agents do not make up most of the employees here. But look at the two main drivers of our current economy: real estate (the main reason our economy is doing well at all right now, post dotcom-crash), and law (ever noticed how many lawyers, law offices, etc. there are now?). Most people in the USA are service workers of course; they clean bathrooms, wait tables at restaurants, as
    • Meanwhile the planet goes to hell.....
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <`wgrother' `at' `optonline.net'> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:41PM (#14562177) Journal
    The International Space Station (ISS) would play a key role in the project and a regular transport relay to the moon would be established with the help of the planned Clipper spaceship and the Parom, a space capsule intended to tug heavy cargo containers around space, Mr Sevastyanov said.

    "Then we will be able to drop bombs on... is microphone still on?"

  • Maybe... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doctor_nation (924358) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:43PM (#14562186)
    If the energy companies (i.e. oil) can be convinced that fusion is the next big energy source, I can see them ponying up the dollars to make this happen. Big investment up front for an even bigger possible return later on. It would certainly be easier to generate funds for doing this for business that it will be/is for scientific purposes.
    • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Alex P Keaton in da (882660) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:56PM (#14562342) Homepage
      I respectfully disagree- I think if the world's governments all got together to find a renewable clean energy source, they could do it quicker. It would certainly lead to more peace on Earth, with China and India clammoring for Oil... (What was that Val Kilmer movie with the cold fusion where he wore the masks, and they gave the technology to the world for free?)
      It sucks that we spend so much effort, blood, money etc on fossil fuels. Maybe I'm a dreamer, but if we could solve the energy problem, we could devote so much more time to science and discovery...
      • The Saint (Score:2, Informative)

        by VampireByte (447578)
        What was that Val Kilmer movie with the cold fusion where he wore the masks, and they gave the technology to the world for free?


        That movie would be The Saint [imdb.com]. It's okay... Elisabeth Shue looks really cute playing a nerdy scientist in glasses and kneesocks.

      • Re:Maybe... (Score:5, Informative)

        by rtaylor (70602) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @07:03PM (#14562878) Homepage
        I think if the world's governments all got together to find a renewable clean energy source
        Clean is debatable. Oil was considered clean back when the alternative was a horse crapping on the street or coal powered boilers.

        We think fusion, wind, solar, etc. are clean simply because we haven't put much thought into what would happen if everyone used it on a massive scale.

        For example, we know that wind and solar impact the local microclimate but we don't really have much data on their impact on a wider scale.

        Better than oil? Certainly, but nothing is free and everything will have some kind of negative impact.
      • I agree completely! and while we are at it, let's change the national currency (pounds, dollars, cruzados, etc) into leaves. That will make everybody a lot richer, and enhance the quality of life all around!

        No, seriously. A cheap, clean energy source is not market friendly. It requires a major industry to just "go away." You want to know why cheap, clean energy is not the norm yet? Ask the Benjamins. The simple fact is that governments are not in control. It is the industries that really control the
      • It's happening. What do you think ITER is? Kyoto was also, in part, as scheme by which the world's governments got together and agreed rules that would force them all to dveelop an deploy cleaner energy sources. Sadly the US withdrew,
    • One problem. He3 Fusion is more difficult than De+Tr fusion and we haven't made that in to a practical system. He3 will just produce fewer neutrons which is a plus but it isn't a magic bullet.
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:43PM (#14562187)
    Assuming, of course, you have, like, a working fusion reactor.

    Two points for forward planning, I guess.

    Isn't there Helium-3 in the Earth's mantle? Could we go after that? Build one of them there driller vehicles.

  • by dannytaggart (835766) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:44PM (#14562205) Homepage
    Do they have a working prototype of a Helium-3 power plant? I have a feeling this is an Energia propaganda piece.
  • A bit early perhaps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Councilor Hart (673770) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:49PM (#14562260)
    Nuclear fusion is not expected by 2020, so it's a bit premature.

    Helium-3 is also not necessary to archive fusion. Deuterium-tritium reactions will also work, and you don't have to go to the moon to get those elements. Deuterium can be extracted from the sea and tritium can be created in situ by reactions with lithium embedded in the wall of the reactor.
    The benefit of using helium 3 is that you bypass the radioactive element tritium.

    It's a good idea for the long term, but let us first try to get a working reactor, shall we?

    • by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:56PM (#14562336) Homepage
      The benefit of using helium 3 is that you bypass the radioactive element tritium.

      Why? When has a radioactive element ever caused any problems in Russia?

    • by barawn (25691) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @06:02PM (#14562400) Homepage
      The benefit of using helium 3 is that you bypass the radioactive element tritium.

      The benefit of Helium-3 is that its fusion reaction is aneutronic. This means that the containing vessel wouldn't be irradiated, and it's more efficient - that is, it should be easier to generate ignition with Helium-3 than with a similar fuel that wouldn't be aneutronic.

      The downside, of course, is that the reaction involved is D+He3, which means you'd have D+D, and He3-He3 side reactions, and D+D does give off neutrons. And D+He3 takes higher temperatures than D+T. So it's a little - um - daring for the Russians to be saying this, although it's not impossible to believe that given a supply of He3, there'd be economic incentive to build a freaking big fusion reactor.
    • It's not the tritium that's the problem in DT fusion. Not at all. Tritium degrades rather quickly into helium-3 (12.3 year half life) and has many safe uses.

      Instead, it is the 14 MeV neutron generated by a DT reaction that is the problem.
      D + T -> n (14.07 MeV) + He^4 (3.52 MeV)

      Those 14 MeV neutrons are lethal, and they can only be contained by thick shields. Even in a standard fusion reactor with Tungsten inner shield walls, calculations in my plasma science courses years ago showed that, on average,
    • Well, to be pedantic, we had manmade nuclear fusion in the 1950s. It just wasn't very suitable for generating electricity.
  • wikipedia (Score:4, Informative)

    by seann (307009) <notaku@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:52PM (#14562293) Homepage Journal
    Wikipedias Helium-3 [wikipedia.org] article.

    For people who were as clueless as I was.
  • by Froze (398171) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:53PM (#14562297) Homepage
    The moon is a harsh mistress p231, Robert A. Heinlein:

    I really hope that this turns out to be realistic. If an industry can be built around going to and from the moon then space will become a corporate endevour. Which means that we will soon have all manner of neat science/engineering going on from lunar telescopes (observing at all frequencies) to mass drivers (rail guns for cargo) to a 1/6 gravity New Las Vegas lunar resort - at costs more reasonable than big government budgets.

    Exciting news indeed IF (thats a really big if) this is not just another governmental pipedream.
  • by Tragek (772040) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:55PM (#14562324) Journal
    How much mass would have to be removed from the moon (percentage wise) before there would be a noticable effect on the orbit of the moon, or the tides. Which would come first?
    • How much mass would have to be added to the earth to slow our rotation?
    • Tides would be affected first. The orbit of the moon is no reliant on it's mass. However, the pull of the moon DOES create a SLIGHT wobble to the Earth/Moon system, and this would be affected my a change in mass of the moon. But I think that being concerned about such a small change would be anal enough to make one a slashdot reader.
    • That is a very good question, since the orbit of the moon is "growing". In other words, the moon is getting further away. Eventually, the moon will be at such a distance that it will no longer be within Earth's grasp. At that point, the Earth's "wobble" will likely become unstable (Like a 90 degree wobble, resulting in severe climate changes like the ice caps moving around the world. "Hey, what's this glacier doing here in the middle of the Sahara?")

      I think I speak for most of the planet when I
      • here is my solution, for every amount of mass removed from the moon, we replace it with an equivalent amount of nuclear waste

        three reasons this is a bad idea:

        1. It costs $5,000 to $10,000 per pound to orbit with current technologies.
        2. If your spacecraft blows up, instant nuclear rain!
        3. We could be building breeder reactors and reusing our waste.
        • I have the answer to 1 and 2: Mass drivers and sufficiently sturdy containers

          For 3, I agree. We should be using breeders. But to use the US Government line: "Are you crazy? That's how you make weapons-grade plutonium!" Nevermind that not all breeders make weapons-grade plutonium, though...

          On a tangent, I have long thought that we should be tapping into some of the energy created by disposing of waste. I live near a large oil refinery that has two flare stacks that at least one has a visible flame go
      • The moon's orbit is growing because of the tidal interaction between it and Earth. The moon's orbit grows as it slows our rotation. So what you should REALLY be worrying about is what happens when Earth starts rotating once every few months. Might get rather warm, then rather cold. The moon won't escape Earth's grasp though.
    • A lot. The moon is (IIRC) a bit over 1% of the mass of the earth. And it's mostly stuff like iron, oxygen, aluminum, and silicon. Long term and large scale mining *might* cause changes measurable with a good atomic clock (I'm feeling too lazy to calculate), but the amounts of mass needed are sufficiently large to be safely ignored for the duration of He-3 mining...
    • by Jerf (17166) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @07:43PM (#14563182) Journal
      The mass of the Moon is [nasa.gov] ~7,349,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms.

      To cart away even one millionth of one percent of the moon would require staggering amounts of energy. By the time we're dealing with that kind of energy, if we ever can (which I have my doubts about, at least in any way that would be useful for this task), I think we will be able to deal with the consequences.

      Are you worried about whether if we do too much mining, we'll run out of crust on the Earth? Worrying about the Moon's mass is even sillier, since while there may be less moon, you're talking about actually removing the mass, something Earth mines don't have to do.

      You'd also be talking about cosmic levels of heat here, because said "staggering amounts of energy" can't just disappear. Assuming you're talking about moving bits of the Moon to Earth (and not just flinging it uselessly into space) since the Earth is lower in a gravity well, all the mass will pick up the difference in gravitational potential between the Earth and the Moon, 100% in heat (since it won't move on the surface of the Earth, at least not for long). If you moved any cosmically significant amount of the Moon to the Earth, you'd make the surface of the Earth incandescent. (The exact temperature would vary depending on how much mass you're talking, but if you want to have some fun, take the gravitational potential difference of 1% of the mass of the moon, compute how much energy that is, then see how much heat that would add. It's a Big Number.) Until such time as Mankind is so powerful as to be able to revoke the laws of conservation of energy, at which point you can't predict effects anyhow, no significant amount of the Moon is going to get to Earth, at least not with a biosphere on Earth left to care.
      • You'd also be talking about cosmic levels of heat here, because said "staggering amounts of energy" can't just disappear. Assuming you're talking about moving bits of the Moon to Earth (and not just flinging it uselessly into space) since the Earth is lower in a gravity well, all the mass will pick up the difference in gravitational potential between the Earth and the Moon, 100% in heat (since it won't move on the surface of the Earth, at least not for long).

        No. The energy WILL disappear. Do not forget radi
        • No. The energy WILL disappear. Do not forget radiated heat. We won't send all the mass down at once, of course!

          Across what, millions of years?

          One way or another, you're dealing with huge numbers. Plus, since the rate of heat dissipation is proportional to the heat difference, if you insist on keeping the biosphere livable the entire time (spoilsport!), you're going to add some more factors of magnitude to the time it takes to dissipate the heat since you can't raise the temperature very far before it's unli
          • Across what, millions of years?

            The fact that it gets cold at night (no sunlight!) should convince you that that the timescale is much smaller here.

            Plus, since the rate of heat dissipation is proportional to the heat difference,

            You're thinking 'conduction'. Radiative transport goes with T^4. Additionally, you have a nearly perfect heat sink at only a few K temperature (space). Look up Stefan-Boltzmann law [wikipedia.org].

            The rest of your argumentation is invalidated by this.
      • Er. The idea isn't to bring the helium down. The idea is to set up the reactor on the moon, and send the energy down as microwave or laser. That way, no transporation costs, nobody cares if the reactor blows up, nobody cares about all the rock detritus, and so on.
  • 2020? (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:58PM (#14562358) Journal
    Russia to mine the moon, Sweden to abandon fossil fuels... It seems like 2020 is a popular year today. I wonder if I'll have my flying car by then.
  • by Absolut187 (816431) on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @05:58PM (#14562362) Homepage
    I thought that the U.S. owned the moon, but I guess I was wrong.

    Turns out, this guy does:

    http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/business/m oon_sale_000915.html [space.com]
    • $27.15 is a lot to pay for a indefensible claim to lunar land. Even for a "gag" gift. But then I guess if people are willing to pay money to name a star....

      -matthew
  • Why would a base need to be established, or humans even need to be sent, when all is needed is a robot. If we can send a probe to drive around Mars and take samples and analyze them, or to collect particles from comets and bring them back, we should be capable of sending a robot to the Moon that can mine for He-3, put it in a capsule, and launch it back to Earth, where it could either re-enter the atmosphere to land on US soil or be guided into orbit and then picked up by a shuttle. Or you could even build
  • I've always thought that the first melting pot landing on the moon would be much more important than the first person. Mining the moon carries great potential. (I've also wondered what a mining shaft on the moon would "feel like", I mean would there also be an increase in temerature as you get closer to the core).

    Oh well, back to reality: no way this plan will succeed, fundings will be cut as usual.
  • Russia never made it (manned flight w/return) to the Moon before. What makes them think they can do it now?

    The International Space Station is certainly not going to be of any help. It was cleverly put into the very wrong orbit for Lunar travel.

  • Bush had a tizzy, and insisted that America must return to the moon [uncoveror.com] when he learned that the Chinese were planning to go. Now that the Russians are thinking the same thing and even want a permanent base, can he get to the green cheese in time?
  • ... I have just invested heavily in a Blue Cheese maker

    Yet another investment loss

    :-]

    Jaj

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