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The Moon to Warm Mankind
October 2, 2006 17:56

Kaluga has recently welcomed 41st science conference dedicated to the memory of Tsiolkovsky, where scientists and engineers from Russian and other countries have discussed prospects of world space exploration. One of the hottest issues was Moon’s commercial development.

Development of the Earth’s satellite shouldn’t be a goal in itself – it should help to solve burning problems of Earth’s population, especially energy supply. Modern power industry, based on burning hydrocarbon fuel, is now one of the main negative factors, affecting our home planet. Ecological and heating loads are so large, that may lead to irreversible changes – some experts predict this happening in 2020-2030, quite pessimistic approach, I suppose.

How can we avoid forthcoming energetic crisis without restricting population growth and bringing more toxic wastes to the environment? Russian think-tank from Rocket-and-space Corporation “Energia” has thoroughly analyzed all existing energy technologies and found out that, except nuclear power engineering, which lacks greenhouse gases, and hydrogen energy, which is still a developing industry, they make the situation worse. However, experts claim to have a solution – nuclear power engineering, based on helium-3, will save the day.

Today nuclear reactions with helium-3 are considered to be the most effective way to produce energy. Having all advantages of atomic decay, such reactions do not emit radioactive fission fragments, but give charged protons, which can be further used for producing energy without any transformation. Potential life of helium-3 power stations reaches 30-50 years, and their efficiency factor is as high as 80-90% (compare to 50% of existing nuclear power stations).

But Earth lacks helium-3 – what will the scientists say? They say the Moon is the answer! Space exploration showed millions of tons of said isotope, brought by solar wind, are found on distant planets, asteroids and Earth’s satellite. Distant planets and asteroids are still science fiction, but the Moon is very close to our planet, and flights to the satellite are no more an outstanding event.

One hectare of Moon soil (three meters deep) contains about 240 g of helium-3 – this amount of the isotope gives 2.5 megawatts of energy – the same as first nuclear power station in Obninsk has produced for six months of operation. Energy output of one ton of helium-3 is equivalent to 10 million tons of coal. Power stations of new generation will be built on the Moon to transfer energy to our planet and help avoiding the crisis. “Energia” experts have developed a detailed concept of Moon exploration with drafts for lunar surface vehicles, spaceships for transporting necessary equipment and the crew, Moon base and orbital station to be built.

Energy is not the only benefit of the satellite’s exploration – the same amount of Moon soil contains up to 27 thousand tons of oxygen, 12 thousand tons of silicon, 5 thousand tons of aluminum, 3 thousand tons of titanium, as well as iron, methane, nitrogen, hydrogen, etc. This means that our space neighbour can provide mankind with metals, useful minerals, and fuels for many years.

Some worth mentioning advantages of the Moon are low gravity and the lack of atmosphere and electromagnetic interference – this makes our satellite a perfect ground for performing various experiments. Today the International space station’s laboratories are occupied for years ahead, and the Moon will help to expand science and technologies. First stage of the Moon’s exploration – building of a small station with several crewmembers – is scheduled for 2020-2025. The second stage – helium-3 extraction and transportation – is planned for 2025-2030. And the third stage considers the Moon base to become self-sufficient and to host a spaceport with developed infrastructure for regular passenger and cargo transit to the Earth and other planets.

We shall soon find out whether the grand plans would be realized – Russian government has allocated several billion dollars to support the Federal space programme. Some other countries – the USA, Japan, China, etc. – have also developed similar Moon exploration programmes. I hope that these countries will unite their efforts with Russia and come out with a joint project, which would be a success.


Anna Kizilova


Tags: Russian scientists Russian science space Kaluga  

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