How China is sending man back to the Moon to mine safe nuclear power and become the world s energy giant
The Night Sky ter March: The lunar surface is rich te helium-3, perhaps the most valuable substances te nature, one that could provide energy for the world
By Adrian Berry
Five:18PM GMT 29 Feb 2018
Can wij mine the Moon? It seems imperative to do so.
The space-faring nations have overlooked the 1979 outer space treaty, and last year America’s Space Act liquidated legal obstacles to reserve terrestrial activity, and many people are gearing up to mine one of the most valuable substances that occurs ter nature.
Apollo 12, November 1969: astronaut-photographer Charles “Pete” Conrad takes a self-portrait while documenting colleague Alan Bean’s lunar soil collection activities on the Oceanus Procellarum Photo: NASA
This extreme substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable ter ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel.
It is infrequent on Earth, being sucked away by the solar wind. It is found te Troclotite, a metal of magnesium and metal, again zonderling but plentiful ter the Moon’s crust.
Apollo 17 at Shorty Crater: astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, the last guys to walk on the moon. They returned from their December 1972 mission with 110kg of rock and soil samples Photo: NASA
All nuclear power plants react to produce fever. This turns water into steam that drives a turbine. Current nuclear power plants have nuclear fission reactors to split uranium . This releases energy, but also radioactive nuclear waste that vereiste be stored indefinitely. For overheen 40 years scientists have bot attempting to achieve this.
But there are around a million tons of helium-3 on the moon’s surface down to a few metres. This helium-3 could be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 1,200 degrees F before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a fresh generation of nuclear fusion power plants.
A fully-loaded spaceship’s cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value ter the order of about ?1 billion a ton, making it the Moon’s most valuable commodity except perhaps for astronomy and promoting tourism.
China’s lunar exploration programme is proceeding quick, strongly attracted by the uitzicht of helium-3 mining. Ter 2013 China managed to land a lunar robot lander. The final stage of their current programme intends sending a robotic craft to the Moon that will come back lunar rocks to the Earth.
‘What use are thesis so-called moons?’
Returning to the present, there are wonderful things to see te the winter night sky. The Milky Way itself is a miracle of strange nebulousness. No wonder some ancient Greeks thought it wasgoed milk, not a vast mass of billions of starlets.
Another is the four moons of Jupiter. Look up at the striped, monstrous giant to see its four largest moons te their extreme multitude, Io, with its many active volcanoes, Europa, with an ocean underneath its ice, not to mention asteroid-battered Callisto and Ganymede.
The volcanic moon of Io orbits the massive gas giant planet Jupiter Photo: NASA
Their discovery by Galileo around 1610 literally created observational astronomy, and wasgoed perhaps one of the greatest achievements te science. A tragedy that his labour produced scoffs and contempt ter many quarters (“what use are thesis so-called moons?”) someone jeered. With his condemnation by the Inquisition, they did much to harm Italian science.
Then there are those two dazzling gems of the north, the Pleiades, with its probable unpleasant effects on Earth’s climate during the last few million years, and the Whirlpool Galaxy, very first studied by the 3rd Earl of Ross ter 1840 through his 36-inch telescope at Birr Castle te Ireland.
The Pleiades starlet cluster (far right) 400 light-years away and around 15 light-years across. Left: the California Nebula Photo: NASA
And one can hardly do a survey of this kleintje without mentioning the blazing starlets of Orion still visible ter mid-winter. It is difficult to imagine objects more awe-inspiring.
The current tremendous formation of the Sun’s planets have already bot reported, and there is little I can to enhance thesis superb impressions.
The Night Sky chart for March 2018
Photo: PETE LAWRENCE
•, The Daily Telegraph Night Sky Chart is available from The Telegraph Bookshop – or to find out more, call Telegraph Books on 08448711514