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Another Energy Invasion?This Time it's the Moon

Both the U.S. and China have announced plans to go to the Moon, probably to get hold of the valuable helium-3 there, which would solve the world's energy problems. While there haven't been any official announcements about it, the Bush administration clearly realizes there is an impending oil shortage. One reason we've gone into Iraq is to secure the oil there. Are we planning to go to the Moon for the same reason?

However, we may never be able to mine the valuable helium-3 from the surface of the Moon because it doesn't contain enough water to set up a mining operation. Despite this, President Bush seems determined to set up a permanent base there. In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Susanne Quick quotes nuclear engineer Gerald Kulcinski as saying, "If we could land?on the Moon, fill the cargo with canisters of helium-3 mined from the surface and bring the shuttle back to Earth, that cargo would supply the entire electrical power needs of the United States for an entire year."

Fusion researcher John Santarius says helium-3 could provide 1 million times more energy per pound than a ton of coal. Kulcinski says it "doesn't produce greenhouse emissions. It's safe for the environment? because ?the Moon doesn't have air or water, so there won't be any of that kind of pollution."

Helium-3 is found in the top few feet of lunar soil. It's easy to mine with simple shovels and would cause no permanent scars on the surface. Kulcinski says, "We might smooth out some of the smaller [bumps on the surface]," but they wouldn't be noticeable from Earth. The "Man in the Moon" would still look the same.

Kulcinski and Santarius think the future of energy is in fusion, which combines atoms to create energy, unlike fission, which splits them apart. Using helium-3 produces very little radioactivity, but there?s only one problem: this element is extremely rare on Earth.

Kulcinski thought more of it might be available on the Moon, so he asked NASA to examine lunar rocks that were collected during Apollo missions. They found the rocks contained lots of helium-3. There?s only one question: Can a mining operation be set up on the Moon without the presence of water?

While we're worried about securing the Moon, we can't forget our recent problems with the Sun. Paul La Violette explains why we had a cataclysm 15,000 years ago, and what could trigger another one.

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