China’s Chang’e 5 mission recovered new minerals from the lunar surface. Chinese scientists call this mineral “Changesite-(Y)”. The mineral is described by state-run news agency Xinhau as “a kind of colorless transparent columnar crystal”. The Chinese also claim that the new mineral contains helium-3, the cousin touted by many scientists as a potential fuel for future fusion reactors. is the body.
The crystalline minerals were very small, about one-tenth the size of a human hair. This new mineral is of great interest to lunar geologists. The helium-3 it contains has the potential to change the world.
Scientists have known since the Apollo program that the Moon’s surface contains helium-3 deposits. The main advantage of helium-3 fusion over fusion using the hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium is that it does not produce radioactive neutrons. Its main drawback is that achieving a controlled fusion reaction with helium 3 is much more difficult than using conventional fuels.
According to NASA, China is preparing to launch the next phase of its lunar exploration program that will lead to a “research base” at the lunar south pole. Planned missions include:
- Chang’e 6, like Chang’e 5, will be a sample return mission focused on the lunar south pole. It could try to reclaim ice in permanently shadowed craters in Antarctica.
- Chang’e 7 will be a combination orbiter, lander, and rover designed to explore water at the lunar south pole. This mission may precede the Chang’e 6 mission.
- Chang’e 8 is said to have been designed to test technology for the eventual construction of a lunar base.
China, possibly in collaboration with Russia, plans a manned moon landing in the 2030s.
Meanwhile, NASA’s twice-postponed Artemis 1 mission has a new launch date. If all goes well, a powerful Space Launch System rocket will launch on her September 27th, with a preliminary launch date of October 2nd. Each time the mission is launched, it will send the Orion spacecraft, loaded with equipment and other cargo, on a long voyage around the Moon before landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
Two robotic space missions, one by Intuitive Machines and one by Astrobotic, are expected to launch by the end of the year or early next year. Prove the effectiveness of the Commercial Lunar Payload System (CLPS) program that combines private companies and NASA to initiate lunar exploration. The program is plagued by the bankruptcy of one of his participants, Masten Space Systems, but more CLPS missions are on the way in the next few years.
NASA is still planning to send Artemis 2 and four astronauts, one of them from Canada, around the Moon in 2024. 1972 Apollo 17 mission.
There are many reasons to return to the moon. Such as science, commerce, and bragging rights that lead to soft political power. But China’s helium-3 return suggests the moon could become his mid-to-late 21st-century Persian Gulf. Clean and abundant fusion energy will change the world in a barely appreciable way.
Of course, problems remain in making the technology of helium-3 fusion work. Helium-3 fusion may not become a reality by mid-century due to the technical obstacles involved. However, changes in US space and energy policy may hasten the advent of helium-3 fusion.
The United States should begin testing mining operations on the moon, specifically the extraction of helium-3 from lunar soil. It will then transport the helium-3 to Earth and provide it to laboratories so they can continue research and development that promises solutions to both energy shortages and climate change.
The country that controls the energy source that drives technological civilization controls the earth. When China becomes that country, history will turn upside down, given its human rights record and imperial foreign policy. Therefore, the countries that signed the Artemis Accords with the United States must take control of the lunar helium-3 and develop technology to use it as a fusion energy source. Thus, the Artemis Project ensures continued prosperity and human freedom on Earth.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Space Exploration Studies. “Moon, Mars and beyond”, “Why America is going back to the moon”, etc. I blog at Curmudgeons Corner.