Jan 14, 2019 I Brett Tingley

China May Be Secretly Searching for Interplanetary Fuel on the Dark Side of the Moon

You don't know the power of the dark side.

When Darth Vader growled those words to Luke Skywalker, he was warning his son against questing for unlimited power, as he knew that quest would lead only to tragedy. Could those words ring true in real life? I mean, on some levels they obviously do. Those who reach the highest often stoop the lowest as they claw their way up the ladder of life at all costs. But what about the actual dark side; could Vader’s warning apply to China’s current quest for power on the dark side of the Moon?

China’s space agency landed their Chang’e 4 probe on the far side of our Moon last week, an achievement which got little coverage here in the Trump-obsessed US. Still, the accomplishment is a major one in the history of human space travel, even if some analysts warn that the move was more militaristic than it might seem. Isn’t all space travel, though?

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There's a reason space agencies have always had close ties with militaries. If you can send a rocket to the moon, you can send one to anywhere on Earth.

China has already established a scientific laboratory on the dark side of the Moon which, if it works properly, will grow potatoes and silkworms. Neat. China’s Moon mission isn’t all vegetables and worms, though; there might be a hidden ulterior motive involved. According to a report published in the South China Morning Post, the Chinese might have sent their probe to the dark side in order to hunt for a rare and potentially invaluable fuel which could revolutionize spaceflight as we know it.

That fuel is helium-3, a non-radioactive isotope which appears to be common on the lunar surface. Helium-3 could hypothetically be mined or otherwise extracted from the lunar surface and used to power spacecraft for long-distance journeys. Even more promising, those spacecraft could make a refueling pit stop on the Moon as they make their way into deeper corners of space.

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One of the biggest hurdles to overcome to achieve deep space flight is finding sufficient fuel sources. A fuel station on the moon could help spacecraft reach more distant destinations.

Will lunar helium-3 mining trigger a new space race to colonize the Moon and control its resources? Wars over natural resources are fought all the time. Could the surface of the moon be the first major theatre of operations for the Space Force?

Brett Tingley
Brett Tingley is a writer and musician living in the ancient Appalachian mountains.

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