Russian Moon Base Mining Camp

The plan: go to the moon, set up a base, and mine a precious, rare radioactive material - radiactum - that will provide energy. In his 1931 novel Brigands of the Moon, Ray Cummings wrote about a lunar mining operation, giving a remarkably accurate description of the conditions:

And there were humans here now. On this tumbled plain, between Archimedes and the mountains, one small crater amid the million of its fellows was distinguished this night by the presence of humans. The Grantline camp!

...The third building seemed a lean-to banked against the cliff wall, a slanting shed-wall of glassite fifty feet high and two hundred in length. Under it, for months Grantline bores had dug into the cliff. Braced tunels were hewn penetrating back and downward into the vein of rock.

The work was over. The borers had been dismantled and packed away. At one end of the cliff the mining equipment lay piled in a ltter. There was a heap of discarded ore where Grantline had carted and dumped it after his crude refining process had yielded it as waste. The ore slag lay like gray powder flakes strewn down the cliff.
(Read more about lunar mining)

It turns out that the Russians are planning to steal a page from Cummings book. In an aggressive bid to establish a capitalist reason for colonizing the Moon, Nikolai Sevastyanov (head of state-controlled RKK Energiya that built the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft) said that mining helium-3 and bringing it back to Earth would be a key priority in the moon exploration program. Helium 3, rare on Earth, could provide futuristic fusion energy.


(Nikolai Sevastyanov)

Scientists estimate that there are about one million tons of Helium 3 on the Moon; 25 tons could supply the energy needs of the US for a year. Sevastyanov's statement that they could begin mining by 2020 would be just about right; we should be getting to the end of our petroleum deposits right about then. Petroleum and natural gas plants currently produce about one-fifth of the electric power in the US.

Find out more about Ray Cummings and Brigands of the Moon; read more about Helium 3, Russian moonbase plan .

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/28/2006)

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