China has started studying the Chan ' e-5 moon samples and is looking for helium-3

China has started studying the Chan ' e-5 moon samples and is looking for helium-3

Several Chinese institutions, including the Beijing Institute for Uranium Geology Research, are analysing samples collected on the Moon by the Chan ' e-5 mission.

Thirteen Chinese institutions, including the Beijing Institute for Uranium Geology Research, have begun to conduct initial research on samples collected on the Moon by the Chan ' e-5 mission, and the study also includes an assessment of material in search of materials such as helium-3 and uranium that could potentially be used as a source of thermonuclear energy.

Looking for helium-3

The Chan & 5 mission, which landed in Internal Mongolia on 17 December 2020, brought about 1.73 kg of lunar material. A total of 31 samples, including, inter alia, basalt and glass fragments, were rapidly distributed to 13 Chinese scientific institutions for study, which occurred in July 2021 after all requests from Chinese institutions were analysed.

Since the Earth has a magnetosphere, 3He is rejected and cannot settle on the surface. In contrast, the Moon does not have a magnetosphere because it does not have a metal kernel, so the radiation of the Sun 3He accumulates in large quantities.

Pre-production research

The importance of helium-3 for energy production can be seen in future thermonuclear power plants, which, if based on 3He processes, would have high energy output. They would also have no greenhouse gas emissions, would not produce radioactive waste and would reduce maintenance costs. Therefore, there is a great deal of interest in the helium-3 isotope. A good number of companies are studying the prospects for the generation of electricity from thermonuclear energy despite technological and engineering obstacles. It is clear that the most common proposals involve the use of hydrogen isotopes called deuterium and trithium. They are available on Earth but do not have all the benefits of the 3He listed in the previous paragraph. In the meantime, scientists are studying samples for other elements, including uranium.

As Jan Crawford, professor of planetary science and astrobiology in Birkbeck, says, by the time the moon's helium-3 can be used for power generation, much cheaper energy sources will be developed on Earth. Production on the moon also involves very complex logistics transportation and management. Energy production for local use on the Moon is more plausible, but it also takes about decades to do so.

Another purpose of these analyses is to determine the age of the species by examining the geochemical characteristics of the isotopes. The study can reveal the new secrets of the Moon, such as its latest volcanic activity, which will allow a better understanding of the history of our neighbor. It is the Moon that will fill the gaps in the geological history of the Earth, which, as an active planet, has little evidence of its past. The use of the Moon's "seniority" in this sense can complement the history of the evolution of our planet. To continue these studies, China plans to launch the Chant'e-6 machine in 2024 to collect samples from the southern pole of the Moon.

Chan-e-5 was not only a technical test for China, but also an excellent opportunity for the entire scientific community to understand the history and evolution of the Earth-Luna system; in fact, very "youth" soil samples, which were about 1.2 billion years old, were brought to Earth, much younger than those brought by Apollo missions and Soviet missions to the Moon, which ranged from 3.1 to 4.4 billion years old.

The search for helium-3 is indeed a powerful motivational factor in space exploration. India has also expressed interest in the development of the surface of the Moon, and many other private companies, American and others, are interested in the use of fuel from the Moon. ESA itself believes that the moon surface is fundamental, especially with regard to its primary function as a support for flights to other parts of the solar system, so whether we do so to determine the origin of planet Earth or whether helium-3 can provide safe thermonuclear synthesis, one thing to be sure is that the answer lies on the Moon.