The Moon. My favorite cosmic object. What do we know about the Moon? Quite a lot in fact. We know that the Moon – Earth’s only natural satellite – was formed about 4.5 billion years ago as a result of collision between Earth and Theia. Theia was this gigantic Mars-sized object. Some call those “planetoids”. The Moon orbits the Earth, has a 29.5-day cycle, shows the same side to us (hence the conspiracy theories about the dark side of the Moon), has Earth’s gravity and is 1.28 light-seconds away from our planet (or 384,402 km or 238,856 miles). That said, I should also mention that the Moon is slowly drifting away from us. About 4 centimeters(1.57 inches) each year. There isn’t much we know about the Moon, we’ve been there several times. Thanks to Apollo missions 18 people have been on the Moon and brought back 837.87 pounds(380.05 kg) of samples.
We also know that the Moon can be a lifesaver. Literally. We all know that our world is suffering from an energy crisis. We’re damaging our ecology by using oil, gas, and coal to get energy. We’re trying to go green and invest in modern nuclear power stations, use the power of wind, build dams on rivers and use the energy of the Sun. The last one can be much more effective if we go to the Moon and start mining for Helium-3.
This is the part where I explain in simplest of the ways what Helium-3 is and why do we need it.
Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. It’s a gas that can be used as a fuel for the nuclear fusion power stations of the future. Helium-3 atoms release large amounts of energy without causing the surrounding material to become radioactive. There’s almost no Helium-3 on our planet, thanks to the atmosphere. Helium-3 is released by the Sun with its solar winds and Earth’s atmosphere, which we’re destroying with great enthusiasm, it is protecting us from those winds and prevents any Helium-3 getting to the surface of our planet. The Moon, on the other hand, having no protection from solar winds whatsoever, is getting all the Helium-3 it can.
And here’s why we need it. Our energy usage is growing year after year. One of the biggest energy user countries is the USA. 25 tons of Helium-3 can power the USA for a whole year. Now tell me, how much coal is burned in the USA yearly? Millions of tons. 25 tons is the capacity of 1 cargo space ship. So all we have to do is fly to the Moon, load the damn thing and send it back, right? Wrong!
First, we have to map the Moon for Helium-3, then we’ll have to build a Moonbase. And this is where it’s getting really interesting. Building a Moon base was something from a sci-fi world for a very long time. Not anymore. European Space Agency (ESA) has a solution. You can check it out here.
In short, we send a 3D printer to the Moon and it builds a dome that can inhabit 4 people within 3 months. Once we prepare a place where people can stay, we can start sending out materials for a Helium-3 mining complex building. The complex must be built to extract Helium-3 by heating lunar samples to 600C, so it’ll be more economical (both time and money) and eco-friendly to build that complex on the Moon. Once we extract 25 tons of Helium-3 we send it back to Earth and… bye-bye coal, gas, and oil.
This whole thing is a long term project, but we must invest in it if we care about our planet. Who knows, maybe we’ll even stop killing each other over oil and gas, although, you don’t need to worry, I’m sure we’ll find another bone to fight over… No question about it!