If you’ve never seen the movie Moon with Sam Rockwell I suggest you go rent it and watch it. It addresses issues in both politics and space programs. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, a lone minor at the only Lunar Base, which mines the Moon for an isotope of Helium called Helium-3. Why go to such lengths to mine this material?
Well, first off it’s extremely rare on Earth, but it is thought to be far more abundant in the Moons regolith, along with Helium-4. Secondly, as a second-generation fusion fuel many have proposed helium-3. It would be far safer to use helium-3 to fuel fusion power due to its non-radioactive properties, where many other materials can be highly radioactive, which is obviously hazardous to organic life.
Knowing all this information is great for speculative theories, but will it ever be possible to reap helium-3 in such abundance that as in the movie, to supply power for the world in a clean, environmentally friendly way? The answer is still a little vague. However, as some of you may know, Japan has been making large steps in their space programs, including a plan to build a $2 million lunar base by the year 2020. Unlike in the movie, Moon, only robots will operate this base, though these robots will be humanoid in shape. At least that’s a starting point for us humans.
We must also not get ahead of ourselves here. JAXA (the Japanese space program) is planning to have a number of monstrously sized robots, each weighing at about 650 lbs., and land on the moon around 2015, where they will survey the landscape for a suitable building place for a base. These robots will most likely be powered by large solar panels and will be equipped with HD cameras and other instruments to dig, grab, inspect and explore the lunar landscape further.
Here comes the most unbelievable part sounding more like science fiction than science-fact. The 600-pound automatons will find their way to the moon’s south pole, where they will begin to build the unmanned lunar base themselves. It’s a staggering proposal considering the first space program with launching capabilities was founded in 1955 by the Soviet Union. I doubt anyone 55 years ago would even entertain the idea people would one day land on an asteroid, or the concept of a lunar base, or even having commercial space tourism, which by the way I will soon by discussing in another article.
Realistically JAXA’s plan for this lunar base may run afoul budget cuts, politics, and overall a bumpy road, but in the process of following that road mounds of technological advances are bound to be made. After all, Japan’s space program is quite incredible in both its aspirations and ingenuity.
If all goes according to plan, the lunar base will be powered by solar panels utilizing the sun’s light for an energy source. The robotic construction workers will assemble living spaces in the base for both robots and future and human workers. I, myself have been watching this unfold with wide-eyed fascination as I’m sure many others are.
As always keep your eyes to the sky, and your minds open for anything!