Monday, November 19, 2007

Space race for Helium-3

CNN today reported on the continuing Space Race to the moon. China and Japan have both successfully placed probes about Earth’s only satellite and the US have recently announced a proposal to send a manned mission in 2020. India has also suggested a manned mission and China is set to put a Lunar rover on the surface by 2012. But why the renewed interest in Earth’s nearest neighbour? During the Apollo missions Helium-3 was discovered and it is this rare element that excites scientists. Rare on Earth but potentially plentiful on the moon, it is a requirement for fusion reactors which may solve energy needs in the future. Fusion power is seen as less risky than fission reactors, but sceptics have suggested such technology maybe more than a century away.

One month after the Japanese place Selene into orbit, China’s Chang’e probe arrived [BBC / CNN]. Pictures are due before the end of the year, but already Japan has sent back spectacular Hi-definition video. Kaguya, or Selene as it is also called, consists of a main orbiting satellite at about 100km altitude and two small satellites (Relay Satellite and VRAD Satellite) in polar orbit []. China’s Chang’e mission, which is named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, is a three part space program. Further launches are set for 2012 and 2017 [Chang'e space program].

1 comment:

M. Simon said...

Here is a better near term bet for fusion:

Bussard Reactor Funded

The above reactor can burn Deuterium which is very abundant and produces lots of neutrons or it can burn a mixture of Hydrogen and Boron 11 which does not.

The implication of it is that we will know in 6 to 9 months if the small reactors of that design are feasible.

If they are we could have fusion plants generating electricity in 10 years or less depending on how much we want to spend to compress the time frame.

BTW Bussard is not the only thing going on in IEC. There are a few government programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, MIT, the University of Wisconsin and at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana among others.

The Japanese and Australians also have programs.