China Mining on the Moon
|Date Added: March 16, 2014 10:58:24 AM|
Beijing is banking big on space. China has invested tens of billions of dollars in an ambitious space program over the past several years. The government wants to have a permanent space station by 2020 and they are talking about using the moon as a base for deep space exploration. But establishing a base on the moon's surface is only part of the Chinese government's plan.
Many commentators have touted China's interest in the moon's natural resources as a key driver of the country's beefed up space program. At a time when other countries are looking to reduce their carbon footprints-or are at least paying lip service to the idea-China has reportedly been looking for space-based natural resources to fuel their continued development.
Forty years after the United States and the former Soviet Union did so, the Chinese successfully landed on the lunar surface. Their Yutu Rover has been tasked with analysing minerals across a 400-kilometre expanse known as the Bay of Rainbows.
The plan is not necessarily as bizarre as it sounds. The moon is believed to hold significant deposits of uranium, titanium and other mineral resources. Many experts also believe that the moon offers intriguing solar power possibilities.
However, perhaps the most compelling reason to invest billions in lunar exploration 40 years after everyone else gave up, is the belief that helium-3 is thought to be far more plentiful on the Moon than on Earth.
China's official news agency, Xinhua, has called helium-3 the "perfect fusion energy source to replace oil and gas."
Government officials claim that the isotope could be used to generate power for more than "10,000 years" but there are a couple of problems.
First, the fusion reactors that helium-3 could be used to fuel do not actually exist yet.
Second, even if the Chinese find helium-3 on the moon there is the small matter of getting it out of space and back to earth.
Richard Holdaway of Britain's RAL Space laboratory likened China's interest in mining the moon to the prevailing vogue in the West for exploiting the natural resources that lie underneath Antarctica.
However, the moon won't be mined for many, many years if it happens at all. Which is to say, it is far too early to walk away from the very real need fuel dependent businesses have for effective fuel monitoring.
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