Helium 3 - super fuel causing a new space race to the moon

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Helium 3 - super fuel causing a new space race to the moon

Helium 3 promises to be the new super fuel that might stop Global warming by replacing existing fuel sources. However its rare on Earth, and abundant (supposedly) on the moon.

According to some, that is the reason for the new race to the moon,

The sooner countries get their hands on Helium 3 the sooner they can change their power systems over to this new fuel. A single space shuttle load or roughly 25 tons could supply the entire United States' energy needs for a year. And there is plenty there fore 1000's of years of mining.

Is this the dawning of a new human era, of cheap power, of engines that powered by helium 3 could easily explore space?

Dismissed by critics as a 21st-century equivalent of the medieval alchemist's fruitless quest to turn lead into gold, some scientists say helium-3 could be the answer to the world's energy woes.

A non-radioactive isotope of helium, helium-3 is a proven and potent fuel for nuclear fusion - so potent that just six metric tons would supply Britain with enough energy for a year.

As helium-3 is non-polluting and is so effective in such tiny quantities, many countries are taking it very seriously. Germany, India and China, which will launch a lunar probe to research extraction techniques in September, are all studying ways to mine the isotope.

"Whoever conquers the moon first will be the first to benefit," said Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar programme.

Energia says it will start "industrial scale delivery" of helium-3, transported by cargo space ships via the International Space Station, no later than 2020. Gazprom, the state-owned energy giant directly controlled by the Kremlin, is said to be strongly supportive of the project.

The United States has appeared much more cautious, not least because scientists are yet to discover the secrets of large scale nuclear fusion. Commercial fusion reactors look unlikely to come on line before the second half of this century.

But many officials in Moscow's space programme believe Washington's lunar agenda is driven by a desire to monopolise helium-3 mining. They allege that President Bush has moved helium-3 experts into key positions on Nasa's advisory council.

The plot, says Erik Galimov, an academic with the Russian Academy of Sciences, would "enable the US to establish its control of the energy market 20 years from now and put the rest of the world on its knees as hydrocarbons run out."

From here


Researchers and space enthusiasts see helium 3 as the perfect fuel source: extremely potent, nonpolluting, withvirtually no radioactive by-product. Proponents claim its the fuel ofthe 21st century. The trouble is, hardly any of it is found on Earth. But there is plenty of it on the moon.

"Helium 3 fusion energy may be the key to future space exploration and settlement," said Gerald Kulcinski, Director of the Fusion Technology Institute (FTI) at the University ofWisconsin at Madison.

Scientists estimate there are about 1 million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years.

The equivalent of a single space shuttle load or roughly 25 tons could supply the entire United States' energy needs for a year, according to Apollo17 astronaut and FTI researcher Harrison Schmitt.

Helium 3 fusion is also ideal for powering space craft and interstellar travel. While offering the high performance power of fusion -- "a classic Buck Rogers propulsion system" -- helium 3 rockets would require less radioactive shielding, lightening the load, said Robert Frisbee, an advanced propulsion engineer at NASA's Jet PropulsionLaboratory in Pasadena California.


Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium. The helion, the nucleus of a helium-3 atom, consists of two protons but only one neutron, in contrast to two neutrons in ordinary helium.

Helium-3 is rare on Earth and sought-after for use in nuclear fusion research. More abundant helium-3 is thought to exist on the Moon (embedded in the upper layer of regolith by the solar wind over billions of years) and the solar system's gas giants (left over from the original solar nebula), although still in low quantities (28 ppm of lunar regolith is helium-4 and 0.01 ppm is helium-3).[1]

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wik...

More here as well

NASA's planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry.

Nestled among the agency's 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors -- futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.

Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon.

As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.
By netchicken: posted on 2-5-2007

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