New Mars Forums

Official discussion forum of The Mars Society and MarsNews.com

You are not logged in.

Announcement

Announcement: We've recently made changes to our user database and have removed inactive and spam users. If you can not login, please re-register.

#1 2004-09-14 22:03:26

DannyITR
Member
From: Montreal, Canada
Registered: 2004-01-08
Posts: 41
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

In the current issue of Popular Mechanics there is an article about mining Helium 3 from the moon. Apparently one shuttle bay's worth of the stuff could power the entire US for a year assuming the necessary power plants were in place.

There is also an article on space.com:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/h … 00630.html

I was just wondering what you guy thought of it. In the magazine they suggest usng a modernized Saturn V rocket with a 100 ton payload to get to the moon and start the mining operation. They say for about $15 billion the rocket could be on it's way.

To me this seems like the best possible reason to visit the moon. Not only would it spur tons of new technology and jump start the economy but it would also pay for itself since Helium 3 is worth about $4 billion per ton in energy.

Some research needs to be done on the power generation methods but everything seems to be within reach. I'll tell ya if any candidate even hints at a workable plan to mine the moon they would get my full support (even GWB and I hate him lol).

Opinions?


Danny------> MontrealRacing.com

Offline

#2 2004-09-14 22:13:37

PurduesUSAFguy
Member
From: Purdue University
Registered: 2004-04-04
Posts: 237

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Well, if you really want to get rich of Helium-3 minning (assuming that the Tokomaks exist in a mature enough state to make use of it, with out that you might as well use it to make your voice squeeky) the way to go would be some sort of Ballon collection system for Saturn and Uranus. The He3 is in greater concentrations and in a more easily extractable form. Uranus would be the beter choice most likley because it has a very low escape velocity.

It might be a 15 year launch to revenue cycle but you might be bringing back more like 4 or 5 times your launch mass vs fractional returns for lunar opperations.

Just don't go putting up venture capital yet because comercially viable fusion has been "10 years away" since at least a decade before I was born.

Offline

#3 2004-09-14 22:31:39

comstar03
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2004-07-19
Posts: 329

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

About the same time as large scale development of the moon is happening, PurduesUSAFguy.

Well that add more weight to going to the moon direct first, to develop large scale spacedock facilities on the surface and also mine and refine the fuel for future power plants and spaceships for exploration and colonization.

Offline

#4 2004-09-14 22:59:57

PurduesUSAFguy
Member
From: Purdue University
Registered: 2004-04-04
Posts: 237

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

About the same time as large scale development of the moon is happening, PurduesUSAFguy.

Well that add more weight to going to the moon direct first, to develop large scale spacedock facilities on the surface and also mine and refine the fuel for future power plants and spaceships for exploration and colonization

That sounds great,

The kicker is that building dry docks and mining and manufactoring opperations on the moon are going to take decades. On a surface with the exception of Oxygen has no volitiles what so ever. Barring a breakthrough in nanotech in the next decade such a program is likley to take 30 or 40 years. I'm not out of grad school yet and I'd be retired before we were even talking about an expidition to Mars.

I'm sorry but I have yet to hear a single convincing argument why going to the Moon first makes any sense at all.

And I'm not just defending the little red book! lol big_smile

Offline

#5 2004-09-15 00:55:56

comstar03
Member
From: Australia
Registered: 2004-07-19
Posts: 329

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

We will have the large scale development by 2025 on the moon, PurduesUSAFguy. That is the goal to complete within that time, therefore come up with the solution without Government increasing their funding. If you can answer that problem with a workable solution then you might get there.

I have answered it !!!!!!!

Offline

#6 2004-09-15 05:27:59

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 18,313

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

In another thread we are doing star dust collection with the probe genisis. I would assume that it would have collected H3 and knowing how much versus the other chemicals might point to another means to get this material for build fusion reactors as an alternative to lunar mining.

Online

#7 2004-09-15 09:09:27

RobS
Member
From: South Bend, IN
Registered: 2002-01-15
Posts: 1,701
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Of course, the problem right now is that the world has spent billions of dollars and has yet to make any kind of fusion reaction work profitably. It is easy to say that if the sun can do it, why can't we; but remember, the sun's power production is something like a watt of continuous power for every million tonnes of solar mass! So the only reason the sun can do it at all is because it is BIG. If you want to turn out thousands of kilowatts in a little structure, you need to generate temperatures and pressures higher than inside the sun. And that's with the deuterium-tritium reaction, which is the "coolest" from the point of view of temperature. The Helium-3 to Helium-3 reaction requires MORE heat than deuterium-tritium. The reason people like it is because it doesn't generate neutrons, and thus doesn't make radioactive waste.

So don't hold your breath. Near as I can tell, the assumption behind Helium-3 mining is that we can figure out a way to use the stuff to make energy, AND THIS SEEMS DUBIOUS.

If you want to make money on the moon, either haul tourists there or figure out how to extract platinum (20 to 30 parts per million!) from meteoritic nickel-iron deposits, of which the moon has billions of tonnes. The shift to a hydrogen economy requires fuel cells, and they require platinum catalysts.

        -- RobS

Offline

#8 2004-09-15 09:13:16

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 18,313

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

But yet we are willing to vent Hydrogen as a waste byproduct onboard the ISS from the russian oxygen unit into space.

Online

#9 2004-09-15 09:53:06

Mark S
Member
Registered: 2002-04-11
Posts: 343

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

I agree with Rob S.  He-3 mining is a LONG way off.  We need to get a lot better at hot fusion before we can seriously consider He-3 mining.

If we want the moon to give us a short-term power source, solar power would be a better bet.  One objective of human lunar return could be the construction of solar panels from lunar regolith and beaming microwaves back to earth.  With no atmosphere to scatter solar rays and abundant constrution materials, the moon is an ideal place for solar power.


"I'm not much of a 'hands-on' evil scientist."--Dr. Evil, "Goldmember"

Offline

#10 2004-09-15 11:42:11

DannyITR
Member
From: Montreal, Canada
Registered: 2004-01-08
Posts: 41
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

I'm sorry but I have yet to hear a single convincing argument why going to the Moon first makes any sense at all.

To me, finding a profitable way to build a moon base would be extremely beneficial to society. The lessons learned and new technology would be invaluable to any Mars mission. Most importantly, we would get our money back so we are not bankrupting ourselves. I believe one step at a time should be taken.

Mabye Uranus and Saturn have greater H3 deposits but they are 15 year round trips. That's impratical to say the least.

Actually my post wasn't specifically making the case for H3 mining but rather making the case for a moon base which yields return on investment. Once a permanent human presence is established on the moon we have a new gateway to outer space. Things can be harvested and built directly on the moon and not have the constraints of being on Earth. Until there is an efficient way of getting into eath orbit this remains a huge advantage in my opinion. Putting all our eggs in a Mars direct basket is irresponsible in my opinion. It would be like sprinting ahead in the first few seconds of a marathon. The sprinter will more than likely loose the race.


Danny------> MontrealRacing.com

Offline

#11 2004-09-15 11:48:01

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

But yet we are willing to vent Hydrogen as a waste byproduct onboard the ISS from the russian oxygen unit into space.

But this Hydrogen is worthless.

Plus, getting electricity from the Moon 240,000mi away, when the Earth does not spin in synch with the Moon, and getting the energy through EARTH'S atmosphere, oh yes and solar flares frying the Lunar arrays and transmission gear...

Power from the Moon I think is a pipe-dream excuse, not ideal in the least. The only things that the Moon canprovide from Earth are metals, He3, and as a base of operations for spaceflight way WAY down the road.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

Offline

#12 2004-09-15 12:15:24

Austin Stanley
Member
From: Texarkana, TX
Registered: 2002-03-18
Posts: 519
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Meh, H3 fusion is nice and all, but I wonder if mining it would ever be a truely worthwhile investment.  I mean sure it's superior to D-T fusion (better kw/KG, no neutrons), but do these advantages realy make up for the steep diffrence in cost?  I mean, the stuff has to be gathered up out of great quantities of dirt on the moon, and then shipped back to earth.  This would make it very expensive. Surely conventional D-T fusion, or for that matter any other kind of fusion not relying on non-terrestrial elements, would be much cheaper. This would more than make up for the rather minor disadvantages (having to deal with the neutron radiation), invovled.


He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

Offline

#13 2004-09-15 12:25:04

GCNRevenger
Member
From: Earth
Registered: 2003-10-14
Posts: 6,056

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Short term, most likly yes... long term, that depends. If the neutron problem really does become a big problem (reactor becomes radioactive on Earth for instance) then it might be worthwhile... in the long term. Then flights from there to here and here to there shouldn't be as hard.

Another angle to consider: He3 fusion would be the ideal fuel for a fusion powerd rocket... no shielding required, and even higher specific impulse.


"The power of accurate observation is often called cynicism by those that do not have it." - George Bernard Shaw

The glass is at 50% of capacity

Offline

#14 2004-09-15 13:56:36

Austin Stanley
Member
From: Texarkana, TX
Registered: 2002-03-18
Posts: 519
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

I don't know, I just have a hard time buying it.  I mean it's not like the neutron radiation from conventional D-T fusion is that intense.  So you have to replace parts of the reactor every 5 years or so, big deal, the parts would have to be maintained anyways.  It is an additional cost, but surely it would not be greater than the extream cost involved in importing He3 from the moon.  Even with highly evolved infastructure on the Moon, it would still be a very expensive proposition.

I think one of the aspects of fusion power that people have not considered is how it should dramaticly drop the price of electricity.  People like Zubrin and others look at the current value of electricity, calculate how much energy D-T or He3 fusion could generate and spout, Egad! we could make money importing the stuff from the moon/mars (I think at one point Zubrin even advocated importing Deutrium from mars...).

But if fusion technology is achived, the price for a kWh should drop dramaticly, I mean thats one of the reasons we are developing it, right?  I mean sure, deutrium is pretty expensive today, but thats because it is only refined in small scales.  D-T fusion would increase the demand for it, which would seem to increase it's cost, but in-fact it should go down, as it enters mass-production AND the cost of electrolisis goes down with the price of electricity.  Most projections have the fuel being a mear 1% of the electricity cost.  He3 will be hard pressed to beat this figure.

Another problem with He3 energy from the moon is the whole chicken and egg delima.  You don't need massive moon mining opperations unless you have He3 reactors, and you don't need He3 reactors unless you have the massive moon mining opperations producing He3.  So a succesfull operation would not only have to run on a cheaper kw/KH basis then D-T fusion (a feat in and off itself), but also have to pay the cost of both constructing a reactor and the infastructure to suport it.  I think this level of capital investment is the real killer.  No new nuclear reactors are being built due to the steep up-front costs to construct them (for that matter few coal plants are being built for the same reasons).  Instead natural gas plants are being built because a new plant can be built cheaper, even though it costs slight more per kW to produce the electricity.

I'm even question He3 utility in space.  Again, while it is supperior to D-T in terms of specific impulse, and emits no neutron radiation, the fuel is still going to be costly.  D-T may be slightly less efficent, but when your ISP's get up into the thousands (or even the millions) these diffrences become less important.  For most inner system travel the fuel is going to be mostly inert hydrogen anyways.  And this hydrogen can easily double as a neutron shield for the crew as well.  In addition the crew will have to be shielded from space-radiation anyways, so the additional shielding does not necessarily have to be that great.  So the question becomes, is the additional cost of the spacecraft's fuel worth the improvments in efficency?  The answer is not a cut-and-dried yes, IMO.

Yet another point is that He3 fusion is not totaly free of neutron emission.  While the He3-D reaction produces no neutrons, D-D reactions can be expected to happen witihin the reactor (although at a very low rate), and these reactions will produce some neutron radiations.

While I'm mentioning D-D fusion, it is yet another competor to He3 fusion that has not been mentioned yet.  It's fuel costs should be even lower then that of D-T fusion (no need for lithium to make tritium), and it emits less radiation as well.  It even produces He3 as a byproduct!  I think D-D fusion will be the primary fuel for secound generation reactors, and our source He3 might come from them!  It's potential in space is nearly as good as well.  Other types of heavy element fusion (such as D-Li) could also be considered, if neutron radiation is truely such a problem (D-Li produces no neutrons).

I love the concept of He3 mining, but looking at it realisticly, it doesn't seem very practical.


He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense.

Offline

#15 2004-09-15 16:22:25

Grypd
Member
From: Scotland, Europe
Registered: 2004-06-07
Posts: 1,859

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

We are facing as a world a new energy crisis we have a demand for fuel that is garnered from countries that are what we class as best unstable or our supplies elsewhere have reached maximum harvesting. We are now looking at Hydrogen fuel celled cars as a real proposal and there are a lot of houses that are supplied by gas and oil that would move to a cheaper form of energy supply. But fuel cells are expensive as they need platinum to be able to function to the best efficiency that they can get. Platinum demand has remained a stable in mineral exchanges unlike gold but if we start to use large numbers of fuel cells then platinum prices will sky rocket.

At the moment platinum is going for 885$ for an ounce to the price of gold at 409$. it has increased in price over the years and as an example was worth only 440$ an ounce in 1998. Dr Zubrin stated that we would not go the Moon just to harvest helium 3 and as much as I regret it we wont. But if we go to the Moon to mine the Noble metals then we can harvest the Helium 3 too. The research into fusion power has exploded in recent years it was always what we call the poor science as the cost to develop it was not being paid as we had cheap oil. But oil is no longer cheap and so fusion is back on the table with Japan leading the way. When we develop fusion then we can develop the fusion powered rocket and what would the times be for one of these ships to fly too the Mars and to the new persian gulf, the gas giants.


Chan eil mi aig a bheil ùidh ann an gleidheadh an status quo; Tha mi airson cur às e.

Offline

#16 2004-09-15 16:55:09

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,898
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

We discussed this on another thread some time ago. I kicked around the idea of presenting a paper at the Planetary & Terrestrial Mining Sciences Symposium entitled "Debunking Helium-3". This renewed discussion makes me think I should have. Well, I can still present at some other conference.

The point is secondary reactions. Yes, He3-D does produce more energy than either D-D or T-D reactions. The by-product of He-D is an alpha particle (helium-4 nucleus) and a proton. The by-product from T-D is an alpha particle and a neutron. However, a D-D reaction produces He3 and a neutron about half the time, T and a proton the rest of the time. That means a D-D reactor makes its own T and He3. Once you factor in energy produced from T-D and He3-D reactions, the D-D reactor produces energy per unit mass of fuel part way between T-D and He3-D. And deuterium is extracted from tap water. Do you really want to go all the way to the Moon to get a 10% increase in electricity? Wouldn't it be more cost effective to harvest more deuterium from water?

Starting the reactor: a D-D reactor uses all fusion reactions at once, so you can start it with a T-D fuel mix. You can get tritium from the coolant water of a heavy water fission rector. You only need T to start the fusion reactor, after that it will produce its own from deuterium. The D-D reaction itself has an ignition temperature two orders of magnitude greater (about 100 times greater) than either He3-D or T-D, but the T-D reaction can produce it. A T-D fuel mix is about the same as a He3-D mixture.

Neutron radiation: we already have neutron absorbers and reflectors for fission reactors.

The trick is getting a fusion reactor to produce more energy that it consumes for containment. As I've stated above, once that is achieved we can use tap water for fuel. He3 might be useful IN SPACE to fuel fusion rockets, but it will never be economical to import it to Earth. Never. Never.NEVER.

Offline

#17 2004-09-15 19:20:26

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 18,313

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

I had previously posted this thought under the cold fusion topic so here it is, copied here to see if it will spark any thoughts.

The suns fusion raction is 4 H atoms squashed under intense pressure and heat to make He. Atomic fision uses either uranium or plutonium with a little H thrown in to start it going.

We also know that H2O under electrical current with the paladium rods for electrolysis breaks the bonds.

What if D2o(deutrium) and He3 where used instead under electrical current or under ultra sonic waves. How would that work out in terms of cold fusion?

Online

#18 2015-03-12 19:51:05

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 18,313

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Google Lunar X Prize competitor Moon Express are part of Nasa's Lunar Initiative, also known as Catalyst, to encourage more companies to pursue space travel.

Billionaire Teams Up with NASA to Mine the Moon

moon-express-mtv-1x-test-flight-lg.jpg

Moon Express chairman and co-founder Naveen Jain believes the moon is home to precious metals and minerals that could be used here on Earth, including gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten, and Helium-3,a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste.

Online

#19 2015-03-13 18:25:18

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,331

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

If cold fusion devices pass peer review, the only thing hot fusion devices will be used for is industrial power generation facilities for established population centers.

Even if He3 could simply be picked up off the lunar surface with little to no processing, which is certainly not the case, it would likely only be used on the moon and Mars for colonies with populations great enough to warrant the expense and effort to construct the infrastructure to support hot fusion.  It's hard to say what the state of power generation tech will be when we're at that stage in the game.

No matter how expensive the stuff is or how much better it is than D/T for power generation, barring development of a heavily automated infrastructure for mining, processing, and transporting it, I don't see a market for it on Earth now or in the future.

Offline

#20 2015-03-14 10:01:51

JoshNH4H
Member
From: Pullman, WA
Registered: 2007-07-15
Posts: 2,526
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Cold fusion is not going to pass muster because its proponents are frauds.


-Josh

Offline

#21 2015-03-14 15:23:28

kbd512
Moderator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 3,331

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

JoshNH4H wrote:

Cold fusion is not going to pass muster because its proponents are frauds.

I'd be ever so careful about labeling anyone a fraud or any technology a hoax without substantial independent testing.

If the scientists really were evidence driven instead of ego driven, then why not just say that we don't understand what Mr. Rossi's device is doing, but it's obviously putting out quite a bit more power than the conventional chemical reactions we've seen.

I don't consider the physicists and other scientists working on hot fusion to be frauds, either, even though they've yet to come up with a sustainable break even fusion reaction during the last several decades over which serious effort has been devoted towards the goal.

Be very skeptical of anyone who tells you they have a magic energy box, but don't let your ego prevent you from examining the evidence.

Offline

#22 2015-03-14 15:39:40

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 3,826
Website

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

Until and unless there is a controlled-fusion device actually working (hot or cold) that can use it,  helium-3 is worthless.  I don't see any of the approaches to controlled fusion coming anywhere close to working yet. 

So (1) don't hold your breath,  and (2) don't invest yet in helium-3 futures.

Just a little hard-nosed advice.

GW


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

Offline

#23 2015-03-15 09:57:10

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 18,313

Re: Mining H3 on the moon - Popular Mechanics article

GCNRevenger wrote:
SpaceNut wrote:

But yet we are willing to vent Hydrogen as a waste byproduct onboard the ISS from the russian oxygen unit into space.

But this Hydrogen is worthless..

Not really as it a building block to make lots of things that we need, methane or ethane's in general, amonia,ect...

Isotopic exchange is cold fusion and that is where it sort of seems like we transmute an element into another.

Online

Board footer

Powered by FluxBB