In an expansive interview by Yonah Jeremy Bob in The Jerusalem Post November 4, former CIA space analyst Tim Chrisman warns that the U.S. may fall behind China in the areas of extracting energy in space and mining space materials.
“… upcoming areas of potentially transferring solar energy and maybe even fusion-based energy, as well as unique space materials for mining from space, are completely off the general public’s radar. At the same time, these issues may be far more transformative in terms of competition between nations and how humanity’s future is framed.”
Chrisman, served in army intelligence and is currently serving as co-founder of Foundation for the Future, a scientific education and public works advocacy foundation, dedicated to creating an infrastructure to live and work in space.
“Outer space holds virtually limitless amounts of energy and raw materials, from Helium-3 fuel on the Moon for clean fusion reactors to heavy metals and volatile gases from the asteroids, which can be harvested for use on Earth and in space. China will almost certainly use any resources it is able to acquire to the detriment of adversaries, competitors, and bystanders alike,” said the former CIA analyst.
The Post notes, “Helium-3 is viewed as an isotope that could provide safer nuclear energy (than is currently available) through a fusion reactor, since it is neither radioactive nor would it produce dangerous waste products. Solar System Resources has signed a contract to provide 500 kilograms of Helium-3 mined from the Moon to the US Nuclear Corp. in the 2028-2032 timeframe.
“Unlike Earth, which is protected by its magnetic field, the Moon has been bombarded with large quantities of Helium-3 by solar winds. That makes Helium 3 as much as 100 times more abundant on the Moon than on Earth. Fusion reactor technology itself has been stuck with various obstacles over a period of decades, but some argue that a serious supply of Helium-3 could be the needed game-changer.”
Chrisman said, “An even larger potential game-changer could be space-based solar energy. This has more near-term potential – and even if it might be a less significant diplomatic win, it would be much more of a political punch in the gut to either country’s population. It would be not just signals from space, but wireless power available 24/7.
“It would be a solar power plant, a solar farm of solar panels put into space. Instead of the [limited] day and night cycle on the ground, you have constant sunlight delivering energy via a microwave or laser link to the ground.”
The California Institute of Technology, backed by more than $100 million in private funding, is hoping to perform a small-scale solar array test as soon as 2023. Chrisman said that even if the US has some superior technology now, China is on track to launch a new megawatt scale space-based solar power station around 2030 with key tests to take place in 2022.
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