We need to get to the moon! – There is an alarming worldwide shortage of Helium 3, a byproduct that is critical to industries such as nuclear detection, oil and gas, and medical diagnostics. Despite the recession, maybe we’d better go to the moon after all!
The helium 3 isotope is relatively rare on Earth, so it is manufactured instead of recovered from natural deposits. It is formed when tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, decays. Only the United States and Russia produce significant amounts of tritium gas. Current supplies of helium-3 are sourced from the refurbishment and dismantlement of the nuclear stockpile.
Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller says, “The failure to identify this situation in a more timely fashion as well as an apparent failure to alert users who rely on helium-3 that a shortage was imminent, has created a national crisis forcing the nation to launch a crash research program to identify substitute materials for use in radiation detection.”
Meanwhile, team of physicists has pinpointed the location of a long lost light reflector left on the moon by the Soviet Union nearly 40 years ago that many scientists had unsuccessfully searched for and never expected would be found. It was sent aboard the unmanned Luna 17 mission, which landed on the moon November 17, 1970, releasing a robotic rover that roamed the lunar surface and carried the missing laser reflector. The Soviet lander and its rover were last heard from on September 14, 1971.
Three reflectors are required to lock down the orientation of the moon. A fourth adds information about tidal distortion of the moon, and a fifth enhances that information. Researcher Tom Murphy, part of the team that located the reflector, says, “We routinely use the 3 hardy reflectors placed on the moon by the Apollo 11, 14 and 15 missions, and occasionally the Soviet-landed Lunokhod 2 reflector, though it does not work well enough to use when illuminated by sunlight. But we yearned to find Lunokhod 1, [which], by virtue of its location, would provide the best leverage for understanding the liquid lunar core.” And now that they’ve found it, his team can carry out this investigation.
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