New Race to the Moon
Yes, the U.S. again has plans to visit the moon (and hopefully they won’t erase footage of the missions this time). But there are some new players in the current race to our only orbiting body. India and China now have plans to send manned spacecraft to the moon as well.
India and China have both had space programs for quite some time. India’s began back in the heyday of space exploration, the 1960’s and China began moving forward with its manned space program in 1967. Though both have dappled with unmanned missions to the moon, both now have their sights set on a lunar landing even if there is opposition to the idea.
So what’s with all this new interest in the moon?
If you haven’t been stuck in a coma for the last 5 years or so, its become rather apparent that we’re sucking our planet dry due to our addiction to energy – India, China and the U.S. being some of the biggest junkies. Now that we’ve started listening to scientists again, we’re actually perusing alternative resources and sources of energy. Unbeknownst to many of us down here on earth, our moon harbors a plethora of valuable minerals – including Helium-3.
A Lesson in Science – Helium-3 or H3
What is Helium-3? Helium-3 is an isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Helium-3 is the holy grail for creating nuclear fusion power here on Earth. Still not sure why countries want to go all the way to the moon to get Helium? Helium, the regular kind, is already running thin on our planet, however Helium-3 rarely exists on earth because our atmosphere sloughs most of it off before it can get through to the planet below and our magnetic poles also push the precious H-3 away.
The moon doesn’t have an atmosphere and therefore has a stock pile of Helium-3 that’s reported to be in the millions of tons. To put that in perspective 25 tons could power the U.S. and Europe for a year. Not to mention that the moon also contains other valuable minerals.
Mission to the Moon – Take 2
So now we know why countries are interested in going all the way to the moon again. But what exactly do they plan to do while there and what affects will it have on Earth?
As you may have already guessed the new interest in the moon is mining it for H-3 and other minerals. Some scientists believe that nuclear fusion can power the future and there’s certainly enough H-3 to keep us going for a while. But is this really feasible and would it even be worth it?
I say no. For one thing mining the H-3 is still more than a decade away as is the technology for creating nuclear fusion once we have the H-3. By that time we could have very well increased the power producing potential of solar, wind and tidal wave energy generators.
Not to mention nuclear fusion is highly dangerous. Facilities that currently experiment with nuclear fusion creation are on serious lock down, more so than nuclear power plants. It would be just one more thing for terrorists to get their hands on and ruin for the rest of us.
Just as importantly, we don’t know what affect this mining would have on the moon. But considering the fact that we are willing to go to the moon because we’ve depleted our resources on Earth altering it negatively in the process, chances are we’d do the same to the moon. And any one who’s taken 8th grade science knows that the moon plays a significant role in the delicate balance of Earth and its ability to support life.
So Who’s Likely to Win the Race?
The U.S. plans to send people back to the moon by 2020
China has no date set for landing on the moon but experts suggest they may not make it until we’re already into the third decade of the century.
India as well hasn’t named a date, but have already said they have intentions of sending an Indian to the moon.