There are few hurdles in today’s society greater than energy production. And when it comes to energy production there is one possible solution that could solve energy problems almost immediately that most people are aware of , nuclear power. But with this great potential also comes many problems including cost, waste management, and potential dangers from radioactivity. But perhaps it is not the process of nuclear power that is the problem, but rather the fuel used in the process.
Most power production methods work by converting matter into thermal energy. Everything from conventional gas and coal energy to even solar and in its own way wind energy runs off of heat either from matter or from the sun directly or indirectly. This heat is then converted into kinetic energy either through photovoltaic cells or a turbine that spins. Even hydroelectric energy is largely generated from heat as the sun evaporates water which then rains down uphill and streams down into rivers utilizing gravity to bring it down to the ground levels. Nuclear fission works in very much the same way, utilizing heated uranium which then in turn is pumped through water tanks in pipes in order to both cool the uranium and heat the water to a boiling point where it can become steam. The steam then becomes pressurized and vents through turbines which then spin magnets and create electricity. The massive cooling towers seen at nuclear power plants are there to cool water and release safe water vapor into the air. But there are several downsides to using nuclear power as the process is still a fairly primitive and dangerous one. In the end having pressurized water, radioactive material, and a constant need for maintenance 24 hours a day makes the concept of having a nuclear power plant in town seem more like a proverbial Sword of Damoclese than a gift from Mount Olympus. Additionally, there is deadly radioactive waste that has the potential to seep into groundwater and the high cost of maintenance for nuclear power plants.
Helium 3 is the answer to these problems, according to Gerald Kulcinski and several other scientists who have proposed the mining of the deposits present throughout the Lunar surface. Helium 3, unlike Uranium 235 could pass the barrier between matter and energy without the need to convert into heat first. Imagine no water to litter with radioactive materials, no waste left over to dump in ever growing landfills, and no potential threat of a meltdown that could result in thousands of deaths. Such potential for energy would need to create far larger power plants that could operate at peak efficiency for longer with fewer moving parts and more efficiently than even the best nuclear fission plants we have on Earth.
But would a mission to Mars be able to process and return enough Helium 3 to make it a viable energy alternative? Missions to Mars would need to carry enough fuel to reach the Lunar surface, but could use rocket propellants such as hydrogen (found in water which does exist on the Lunar surface in significant quantities) and allow the weight requirements to the moon itself to be far lower than if the Moon did not have water. Helium 3, if processed and separated on the moon itself could be far more efficiently then carted to Earth and used in nuclear power plants. If nuclear fusion is ever achieved, not only will there be extensive expeditions to the moon to acquire helium 3 to power the planet, but future expeditions could even begin mining of gas giants such as Saturn which has a virtually inexhaustible supply.