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Will we soon be able to get fuel for nuclear fusion on the Moon?

Will we soon be able to get fuel for nuclear fusion on the Moon?

Chinese scientists have discovered a new mineral on the moon’s surface. This could have dire consequences. After all, the metal contains the isotope helium-3, an atomic nucleus that can be used as fuel for nuclear fusion reactors.

The discovery was announced on Friday. It is said to be a mineral described by the official Chinese news agency (Xinhua) as a colorless crystal. It was discovered in a shipment of lunar regolith brought to Earth in 2020 by Chang’e-5China’s first mission to bring samples from the moon.

It is also the first time in history that China has discovered a new mineral on the moon’s surface. And it seems immediately expensive: Although other minerals have been discovered on our natural satellite by the United States and Russia before, China says the discovery is unique. The mineral, Changesite- (Y), named after Chang’e, the Chinese moon goddess, is said to contain helium-3.

The presence of helium 3 is of great importance. After all, peer is important to some nuclear fusion reactors to drive. While all of these things are currently in the experimental stage, many scientists hope that within a few decades they will provide a nearly unlimited source of energy, one that also pumps no greenhouse gases into the air.

However, most fusion reactors are designed to combine deuterium and tritium, two isotopes of hydrogen, to produce energy. But some designs assume the use of helium 3: fusion of helium-3 nuclei will release a significant amount of energy, without the surrounding matter subsequently becoming radioactive.

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However, helium-3 is very rare on Earth, which could complicate those plans. For this reason, scientists have been looking at the moon for some time, as it is said that there is a large stockpile. Because of the solar wind, the high-energy particles that the Sun constantly shoots into space, about a million tons of helium-3 have been deposited there over the years. Lunar regolith will From thousand to ten thousand It can contain 3 times more helium than is present in Earth’s atmosphere.

China wants to be the frontrunner

China now wants to publish more resources to check if the extraction of the material is possible. One day after the discovery of helium-3 at Changesite-(Y), the country immediately announced three new unmanned missions to the Moon over the next 10 years. The country has launched unmanned probes to our natural satellite since 2007, as part of the Chinese satellite program launched in 2004.

The expansion of the lunar program is a sign that China’s ambitions in space are growing. For example, the country recently started building its own space station, Tiangong To become a competitor to the International Space Station. A Chinese unmanned rover also touched down on Mars for the first time in 2021, another sign that the country is getting ahead. In the coming decade, the state also wants, just like the West, Bringing people to the red planet.