Monday, 10 September 2007

Just Picture the Possible Future Geopolitical/Ecological/Military Implications....

I'm slow getting to this, but this blog is partly an archive ( were talking about it in 2000). Anyway, last night on SBS, after a mostly dull documentary on Satan, there was a British doco from this year about the significance of Helium-3 as an alternative energy source. It seems plausible to envision new life breathed into the space race, with new participants joining in, as the article below makes clear, not least of all, China. The program certainly stimulated my memories of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars, which offers an incredibly detailed, well-researched scenario about the kinds of conflicts of interest and practical problems in general that could arise in the context of space colonialism.

There were already signs of the arrogant "off worlder" mentality of the capitalist leisure class on display, with the Hollywood elite of George Lucas, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, buying title deeds to moon property (good for 100s of years, apparently [sic]), from some opportunist, who evidently has no entitlement to be offering them in the first place. And yes, Bush has pledged greater commitment to the space program, including the capacity to spend longer periods on the Moon and explore Mars in greater detail. NASA are testing a new generation of space suits that will allow astronauts to spend far longer than the original 6 hours on the lunar surface (they are tested in the Arizona desert).

One part in particular of the documentary that raised my hackles, was the story of a NASA investigator who is dedicated fulltime to finding out what became of the more than 100 pieces of lunar rock that the original NASA mission distributed among many world leaders as signs of good will. In his estimate, more than 90% of them can currently not be traced, and pop up periodically on the blackmarket. Just imagine the likes of Zimbabwe's President, Robert Mugabe, using one as a status symbol prominently displayed on his desk; that would hardly be worthy of the utopian visions of Afrofuturism that have featured on this blog...

In any case, I'll be keeping an eye on The Mars Society as well, of which, of course, Robinson is a prominent member:

Mars Society Australia: From the Red Centre to the Red Planet:

Race to the Moon for Nuclear Fuel
John Lasker
12.15.06 2:00 AM
NASA's planned moon base announced last week could pave the way for deeper space exploration to Mars, but one of the biggest beneficiaries may be the terrestrial energy industry.
Nestled among the agency's 200-point mission goals is a proposal to mine the moon for fuel used in fusion reactors -- futuristic power plants that have been demonstrated in proof-of-concept but are likely decades away from commercial deployment.
Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel candidate for these generators, and while it is scarce on Earth it is plentiful on the moon.
As a result, scientists have begun to consider the practicality of mining lunar Helium-3 as a replacement for fossil fuels.
"After four-and-half-billion years, there should be large amounts of helium-3 on the moon," said Gerald Kulcinski, a professor who leads the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Last year NASA administrator Mike Griffin named Kulcinski to lead a number of committees reporting to NASA's influential NASA Advisory Council, its preeminent civilian leadership arm.
The Council is chaired by Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Hagan "Jack" Schmitt, a leading proponent of mining the moon for helium 3.
Schmitt, who holds the distance record for driving a NASA rover on the moon (22 miles through the Taurus-Littrow valley), is also a former U.S. senator (R-New Mexico).
The Council was restructured last year with a new mission: implementing President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration," which targets Mars as its ultimate destination. Other prominent members of the Council include ex-astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Schmitt and Kulcinski are longtime friends and academic partners, and are known as helium-3 fusion's biggest promoters.
At the Fusion Technology Institute, Kulcinski's team has produced small-scale helium-3 fusion reactions in the basketball-sized fusion device. The reactor produced one milliwatt of power on a continuous basis.
While still theoretical, nuclear fusion is touted as a safer, more sustainable way to generate nuclear energy: Fusion plants produce much less radioactive waste, especially if powered by helium-3. But experts say commercial-sized fusion reactors are at least 50 years away.
The isotope is extremely rare on Earth but abundant on the moon. Some experts estimate there a millions of tons in lunar soil -- and that a single Space-Shuttle load would power the entire United States for a year.
NASA plans to have a permanent moon base by 2024, but America is not the only nation with plans for a moon base. China, India, the European Space Agency, and at least one Russian corporation, Energia, have visions of building manned lunar bases post-2020.
Mining the moon for helium-3 has been discussed widely in space circles and international space conferences. Both China and Russia have stated their nations' interest in helium-3.
"We will provide the most reliable report on helium-3 to mankind," Ouyang Ziyuan, the chief scientist of China's lunar program, told a Chinese newspaper. "Whoever first conquers the moon will benefit first."

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