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Tue, Dec 21, 2004

There's Helium-3 In Them There Moon Hills

And That Could Be Reason Enough To Return

The current value of pure gold (Au), at today's price is $15,500 per kilogram.

So consider: Helium-3 (He3) a rare particle on Earth but abundant on the Moons lunar surface (He3 is required for a fusion reactant - safe nuclear energy) has an energy value in today's dollars is $5.7 million per kilogram when compared to the value and energy potential of oil.

On January 14, 2004 US President Bush announced a new vision for NASA that incorporated a human return to the Moon by 2020, follow-on exploration of Mars and other destinations.

A recent meeting of some 200 scientists from 17 countries expects "lunar landers cooperating into an international lunar robotic village before 2014", evolving technologies for human-tended missions that prepare the ground for an "effective, affordable human lunar exploration and permanent presence by 2024."

Nuclear fusion holds the promise of producing massive amounts of energy without the radioactive byproducts of fission-powered plants.

Dr. Larry Taylor director of UT's Planetary Geosciences Institute in Knoxville says, "The moon is an orbiting space station. All the things you might need for planetary travel are there—hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and other essentials. You can find ways to process or mine the moon and its soil, but there's a lot of stuff up there we could use down here too. The abundance of helium on the moon represents "the Persian Gulf of energy in the 21st century." Helium, with an atomic mass of 3, could have huge importance for generating energy on earth. In 1999 Taylor wrote, "There is more than 100 times more energy in the helium-3 on the moon than in all the economically recoverable coal, oil, and natural gas on earth."

Scientists estimate there are about 1 million tons of helium 3 on the moon, enough to power the world for thousands of years. The He3 is mainly imbedded in an ore called ilmenite.

A space vehicle with a payload bay the size of a space shuttle could bring back enough helium-3 to generate the electricity to satisfy the United States' needs for a full year.

Particles of hydrogen and helium in the solar wind that strikes the moon become embedded in the rocks and soil. This doesn't happen on the earth because our atmosphere and our magnetic field shield our planet from these solar particles.

It has been estimated that helium 3 would have a cash value of $5.7 billion a ton in terms of its current energy equivalent to oil at <$40 per barrel oil.

At $40,000 to $60,000 per kilo for transporting materials from Earth to the Moon, it is not cost effective to go to the Moon even for pure gold (Au), at today's price of <$15,500 per kilogram. He3 equivalent energy value in today's dollars is $5.7 Million per kilogram making this venture for the He3 fusion reactant worth the effort and cost.

While the vehicles for retrieving resources from the moon are being designed and built, Taylor thinks the nation—and the world—can speed research and development of fusion reactors that could process helium trapped in lunar material.

However, a loophole in Space Law allows individuals and companies to hold Mineral Rights on the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies. Growing concern from Scientists that these rights may be held hostage have been alleviated by a three man North American team; Dr. Joseph Resnick, Dr. Timothy R. O'Neill and Guy Cramer (ROC-Resnick/O'Neill/Cramer team) who have acquired the mineral rights for 95% of the side of the moon that faces Earth, the polar regions and 50% of the far side of the moon.

After setting aside 8.9 million acres around Apollo 11 Lunar landing site and designated as a "World Heritage Site". The ROC team announced that it was holding more than 75% of the Lunar Mineral rights to allow for the extraction of Helium-3 and other minerals for the advancement of Space Exploration, Earth and Space Sciences and safer more efficient energy production. 

With the mineral rights secured, the ROC team wants to oversee the extraction process for He3 and other minerals for any robotic or human ventures to obtain these materials to ensure the Moon doesn't become a series of scared surface mines visible from Earth or future lunar orbiting space stations. Visual Mitigation will be a priority so that the expected large scale strip mining doesn't turn the moon into an eyesore for the rest of us.

While the ROC team could become the DeBeers of He3 they have decided that the isotope should not be run like a commodity to profit from - given the important nature of He3 and costs in travel, mining, acquiring, refining and transporting it back to Earth. However, future mineral extraction will require a small lease to cover the costs of planning for visual mitigation and environmental oversight by the ROC team. "The Lunar surface will have to look the same after the mining is done as it was prior to the mining. The environmental and visual preservation must be factored into any planning of future lunar mines."

While efficient He3 reactors are still being tested and refined, many advances have been made in the past few years. Only a few pounds of helium 3 are known to exist on Earth, most the by-product of nuclear-weapon production.

Reactors that exploit the fusion of deuterium and tritium release 80 percent of their energy in the form of radioactive neutrons, which exponentially increase production and safety costs, states Gerald Kulcinski, Director of the Fusion Technology Institute (FTI) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

In contrast, helium 3 fusion would produce little residual radioactivity. Helium 3, an isotope of the familiar helium used to inflate balloons and blimps, has a nucleus with two protons and one neutron. A nuclear reactor based on the fusion of helium 3 and deuterium, which has a single nuclear proton and neutron, would produce very few neutrons -- about 1 percent of the number generated by the deuterium-tritium reaction. "You could safely build a helium 3 plant in the middle of a big city," Kulcinski said.

Helium 3 fusion is also ideal for powering spacecraft and interstellar travel. While offering the high performance power of fusion -- "a classic Buck Rogers propulsion system" -- helium 3 rockets would require less radioactive shielding, lightening the load, said Robert Frisbee, an advanced propulsion engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California.

Wisconsin researchers have produced protons from a steady-state deuterium-helium 3 plasma at a rate of 2.6 million reactions per second in a chamber, which is roughly the size of a basketball. "It's proof of principle, but a long way from producing electricity or making a power source out of it," Kulcinski said. The next generation of helium 3 fusion reactors are expected to be completely void of radiation.

While it's true that to produce roughly 70 tons of helium 3, for example, a million tons of lunar soil would need to be heated to 1,470 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius) to liberate the gas. "There's enough in the Mare Tranquillitatis alone to last for several hundred years," according to Apollo17 astronaut and FTI researcher Harrison Schmitt. "Besides the helium, a mining process would produce water and oxygen as by-products," he says.

70 Tons of helium-3 would have a cash value of $400 Billion in terms of its current energy equivalent in oil.

Following an idea put forward by two European scientists of conserving distinct regions on Mars, the ROC team acquired the mineral rights to Seven hundred million acres of Mars and designated these 8 regions as the first "Extraterrestrial Nature Preserves". The team has agreed to set them aside as preserve regions, prior to the public and corporate ability to obtain those rights.

Resnick, a former NASA scientist and current consultant to NASA, said, "Space law does not allow countries to have land ownership on planets and moons in the solar system but it does allow for the Mineral Rights to be obtained by individuals and companies. The countries party to the Space Treat Act have agreed that none of them has either jurisdiction nor ownership of any extraterrestrial body, nor samples."

Resnick says he found the loophole in Space Law 25 years ago that allowed him ownership of all planetary bodies outside the "Third Planet from the Sun"... submitted this to the World Court at the Hague, and to the United Nations in New York City. In 25+ years no one has ever disputed Resnick's claimed ownership.

Resnick was structuring the Universal Mineral Leases Registry (UMLR) when his partner, Guy Cramer, had read the article on the Mars parks proposal and discussed the ability with Resnick and O'Neill to implement the preserve idea into reality through the UMLR. The ROC team agreed and decided to obtain the mineral rights to these regions, to set them aside as protected areas, prior to the public launch of the UMLR.

This loophole in Space law has been a growing concern to Scientists, however, most were unaware that Resnick had foreseen some of these issues long ago when he obtained ownership of the mineral rights.

Each of the Mars designated areas contain representative features on Mars including the solar systems largest Volcano, Mon Olympus, three times the altitude of Mount Everest and is as wide as the entire chain of Hawaiian Islands as well as the deepest Trench in the Solar System, Valles Marineris which is a giant canyon system that runs about 3000 miles (4800 kilometers) long, meaning on Earth it would stretch all the way from New York City to Los Angeles! The widest point is about 600 kilometers across, and at its deepest point Valles Marineris is about 10 kilometers from top to bottom. This is 6 times deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The designated historical park holds the landing sites of the Viking 1 and Mars Pathfinder spacecraft. Five other regions have also been allocated for preservation.

The North American team issued this statement "We support the effort to protect these Martian areas and by virtue of 'owership' via the Universal Mineral Leases Registry (UMLR), we are designating the areas as "preserves". This effort constitutes the first-of-a-kind "Extraterrestrial Nature Preserve" established by human beings and sanctioned by the owners of the mineral rights located in the Mars regions. Furthermore we have obtained the mineral rights for a large Lunar area surrounding the Apollo 11 landing site and designated this area as a "World Heritage Site" which will allow our future space fairing decedents the opportunity to see this site as it remains on the timeless lunar soil of our first astronauts landing on another celestial body".

This UMLR is filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office and updated semi-annually.

The ROC Team has acquired a few other sites of interest on Mars and the Moon through the UMLR that are of scientific interest, but they have not designated those areas for protection from mineral acquisition or mining. Consideration will been given by the team to allowing countries open access to most of those areas for selections of landing sites to optimize the science return and benefit for exploration.

The ROC team is expected to work with NASA's Moon-Mars and Beyond Initiative and International Space Agencies to set aside specific regions of interest for potential; landing, launch, habitat, exploration, environmental, communication, experimentation, industrialization and commercialization sites. 



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