Helium-3 on the Moon
January 21, 2004 7:03 PM   Subscribe

The real reason we're going back to the Moon? "Researchers and space enthusiasts see helium 3 as the perfect fuel source: extremely potent, nonpolluting, with virtually no radioactive by-product. Proponents claim it’s the fuel of the 21st century. The trouble is, hardly any of it is found on Earth. But there is plenty of it on the moon."
posted by kablam (35 comments total)
"Recently Kulcinski's team reports progress toward making helium 3 fusion possible."

Don't put the cart in front of the horse. The best fusion reactors in the world barely make enough surplus energy to power household appliances. To launch an exploration to the moon before knowing if it would work is, well, stupid.
posted by destro at 7:20 PM on January 21, 2004

So you're saying the "Mr. Fusion" scene from "Back to the Future" was less than realistic?
posted by bdk3clash at 7:29 PM on January 21, 2004

hollywood would never let you down that way. don't beleive these "realist" lies.
posted by quonsar at 7:45 PM on January 21, 2004

Oh it'll work, it's just going to take a lot more time, effort, and money to make it commercially viable. Mind you, going to the moon, with the intent of staying there, will take all three in spades.

Fusion FAQ
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:47 PM on January 21, 2004

Fusion Book (with sample chapters)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:48 PM on January 21, 2004

To launch an exploration to the moon before knowing if it would work is, well, stupid.

heh. er...too easy!
posted by mcsweetie at 8:02 PM on January 21, 2004

We like the mooooon!
posted by homunculus at 8:03 PM on January 21, 2004

We're going back to the moon so we can weaponize space, do a little civilian surveillance, you know, wholesome stuff.
posted by lilboo at 8:04 PM on January 21, 2004

Old article. Has anyone here read the manga Planetes? The writer posits a future where the moon is being damaged and exploited for helium-3 mining...
posted by Electric Elf at 8:28 PM on January 21, 2004

*high, squeaky voice*

It's all about the oilhelium!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:32 PM on January 21, 2004

Also, isn't it awfully coincidental that Burroughs' Red Men of Mars came from the Empire of Helium? Hmmmm?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:34 PM on January 21, 2004

Big Helium has been running the country for years. Thanks for finally waking up, America.

[squeaky, high-pitched voice]

"No, Mr. President, you'll do as you're told!"
posted by Hildago at 8:35 PM on January 21, 2004

pie in the sky yet, destro, they are paving the way for possible development.

Hmm, so what's on mars, then?
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 8:40 PM on January 21, 2004

I thought we were going to liberate the Lunarians from the oppressive dictatorship of zqql'rkkh?
posted by wobh at 9:05 PM on January 21, 2004

I thought the great thing about Fussion is it could use seawater as a fuel source and produce no pollution?
posted by stbalbach at 10:09 PM on January 21, 2004

Just as Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote about “sea-power” at the beginning of the 20th century in this sense, American strategists will be forced to regard “space-power” in the 21st.

Page 55, "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces, and Resources for a New Century" (warning: link to .pdf file above.)
posted by LimePi at 11:16 PM on January 21, 2004

Oh, I feel certain that Our President is probably far too busy working on the hydrogen cars to bother with helium on the moon.
posted by pineapple at 11:38 PM on January 21, 2004

Hildago, i laughed my ass off! really, it's sitting right here on the floor next to me.
posted by quonsar at 11:40 PM on January 21, 2004

Bush's immigration and space policies are just part of his larger plan to send all the brown people to the moon.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 1:11 AM on January 22, 2004

Feh ! There is a little problem here that is called "Economics" of energy.

It' simple: say that I spend X Energy to : go to the moon, extract He3, keep the people on moon alive, transport the He3 from moon to earth, make us of He3 on earth etc

Now say that I can extract Y Energy from He3.

If X is greater then Y then there's no point in getting He3 from moon.If X is less then Y then it can make sense to go to the moon and get He3. From a technical point of view is far more difficult then this , but as far as I know it makes MUCH more sense to invest -now- more money on solar cells efficency, given that you don't need to go to the moon to get energy (Sun delivers to you for free and forever and cuts out the pesky middleman known as the Shell,Exxon,Q8 etc)

Obviously, going and staying on the moon has other implications, it's not only about He3 , it's a technical achievement that may have very positive technical fallbacks
in the future.
posted by elpapacito at 2:02 AM on January 22, 2004

> Also, isn't it awfully coincidental that Burroughs' Red Men of Mars came from
> the Empire of Helium? Hmmmm?

mr_crash, I ache to see a movie (or better yet three movies, or an unending series of movies) made from ERB's Mars books. Swords and blasters and leather bikinis and banths. Why hasn't somebody done this yet? When, when? All the more so since the real Mars has turned out to look like a failed shopping mall that ran out of money right after the grading crew left.
posted by jfuller at 4:12 AM on January 22, 2004

This is not for general publication but I was told we are searching for Saddam's weapons of Mass Destruction there.
posted by Postroad at 7:49 AM on January 22, 2004

Although Louie Alvarez and Robert Cornog discovered helium 3 in 1939 ...

OK, did anyone else read that as Robert Corndog the first time?
posted by krinklyfig at 7:58 AM on January 22, 2004

The 1939 quote is weird because it says they discovered it while makeing nuclear weapons. We did not have nuclear weapons untill at leas the 1950s sometime, and not even atomic ones in 1939.
posted by stbalbach at 9:55 AM on January 22, 2004

We did not have nuclear weapons untill at leas the 1950s sometime, and not even atomic ones in 1939.

The United States dropped nuclear weapons on Japan in the 40's. Atomic and nuclear bombs refer to the same thing. Or are you confusing those two terms with fission and fusion?
posted by VeGiTo at 10:44 AM on January 22, 2004

Well, at least we won't have to kill and subjugate millions of indigenous peoples for once.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:08 AM on January 22, 2004

atomic/nuclear vs. hydrogen bombs?
posted by jacobsee at 11:11 AM on January 22, 2004

It's the *process* I find interesting.

1) Build moonbase as a mining installation.
2) Scrape the top few meters of Lunar dust and put them through a conventional nuclear furnace. Vacuum pump off the helium-3 and concentrate it.
3) Send it home.
4) Leave some of the fuel in Earth and Lunar orbit for use by Lunar and Martian spaceships.

The assumption right now is that we *don't* have an efficient He-3 fusion reactor. What if we do? With that *one* thing, is it "gold rush" time?
posted by kablam at 12:49 PM on January 22, 2004

President's Daily Pop Quiz : Energy Options.

Choose one of the following for the new US Federal Energy Policy.

A) Create mammoth program costing hundreds of billions, perhaps even trillions, to loft millions of tons of mining and manufacturing equipment and other misc. junk off the Earth, to build a base on the Moon which will mine Helium 3 for fusion reactors. Don't put any nuclear weapons there, though, because that could turn into a real life replay of "Space 1999".

B) Spend about 1/100 of that sum to get the same amount of energy from free and abundant sunlight, through proven technologies.

C) Spend about 1/200 of that sum to "create" the same amount of energy by accelerating implementation of energy efficient technologies that dramatically reduce energy demand. Also, replace all the incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents ones and make refrigerators more efficient by stuffing freezers full of tasty, nutritious USDA surplus grade "A" beef, plus lots of "The Other White Meat" as well. Fill unused fridge space with junk mail.

D) Spend a few hundred billion to counter the insidious propaganda of the damn liberals - - with all of their crazy, radical ideas about how wonderful grass and trees and wild animals (which are attacking us at every turn) are - who are preventing those of us who need those resources from getting at that which is our God given right. Trees belong in a tree museum, animals in zoos, and oil belongs in my Lincoln Navigator.

Channel this two or three hundred billion to responsible public relations firms which will teach Americans proper Biblically-derived Wise Use® resource exploitation ethics. Then - the Free Market will take care of the rest !

We'll scrape off the first mile or so of the Earth's surface to get at all that oil, gas, and coal we know is under there.

D-1) If we scrape off enought dirt, the Earth's molten core will keep us warm. We will, however, need to put all the dirt somewhere. Development of the proven "Sky-Hook" technology, and the susequent construction of this "power winch to the stars", would also be invaluable in reducing the cost of building a space station on the Moon.

E) Merge obesity reduction program with energy generation : fat Americans will make electricity riding on exercise bikes equipped with alternators that feed juice into the grid.

F) Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater, and occaisonally carpool.

G) Enslave all the people of Canada and Mexico, and make THEM ride exercise bikes to generate our electricity. They can live on our table scraps and leftovers. We eat too much anyway. They'll be quite grateful.

H) Why worry ? Everything will work out OK in the end.

I) Stop driving, turn off the heat, and keep warm by shuffling about in the dark and cold, shivering and cursing almighty God.

J) Begin crash bio-engineering program to genetically alter humans to accept cellulose-eating bacteria into their intestinal tracts, like cows and sheep.

We won't need to "get" energy - we'll make our own ! Out of materials in our own backyards ! - We'll be able to eat grass, trees, and random shrubbery for food, and what energy we need we can get by duct-taping tubes to our asses whilst we sit on the couch watching TV and gnawing on wood chunks, farting out methane.

J) Invade Mexico and Central America. Who needs energy when you can live in a hut on the beach for free, eating fire-roasted fish, drinking cheap beer, and getting a great tan ?

K) There are two "J" options. Did you notice ?

L) Prayer has the power to transform reality - it can reach back through the past to change history, and can even reverse the flow of time.

M) Our friends in Israel will help us out with that little Mideast "problem".

L) Why worry ? Worrying produces stress, and stress hormones are the deadliest toxins that most of us encounter on a daily basis. Stress takes years off our lives. Stress is bad, got that ?

Be chill, and let the worrywarts get really, obsessively, worried about energy, until they keel over and die. There will be plenty of energy for the rest of us.

K) Collect old newspapers, like the Collyer Brothers. Newspaper is a good insulator, and plus - you can roll it into logs with proven 1970's technology. Burn the newspaper logs in the fireplace for heat, and redevelop the woefully neglected line of research that was dropped when they stopped making Stanley Steamers. Cars can run on newspaper, mark my words.

J) Run the power plants and cars on Hemp oil, and smoke lots of pot. If it was good enough for George Washington, it's good enough for us.

I) Heat should NOT be a problem, if all this "Global Warming" stuff the scientists are always jabbering about is true. We should SPEED UP Global Warming, and set Earth's "thermostat" at a pleasant 72 degrees Fahrenheit. It would be like living in Florida all the time.

If we burn oil, coal, and natural gas even faster, we'll more quickly bring on the day when we can turn off our home heating systems forever. Then, we'll has twice as much oil left over to use to power our cars.

H) Didn't that "Time Cube" guy figure all this stuff out already ?

G) Why is this quiz so long ? I'm confused. This list of options seems endless, like it's running in reverse or something. I'm hungry. What's for lunch ?
posted by troutfishing at 1:08 PM on January 22, 2004

"We are all interested in the future - for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."
-- The Amazing Criswell
posted by kablam at 3:17 PM on January 22, 2004

"Our interest in the future tends to be closely related to the number of years we can expect to live. Some do better than this. Most do not." -- The annoying Troutfishing
posted by troutfishing at 8:05 PM on January 22, 2004

It seems that the Russians are interested in this, too.
posted by kablam at 6:17 AM on January 25, 2004

And the Chinese.
posted by kablam at 6:19 AM on January 25, 2004

kablam - But of course. The goal of a moon base is a perfect cover for the real agenda, the militarization of space.
posted by troutfishing at 7:10 AM on January 25, 2004

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