It is the most valuable element on earth.  We'll fight for it on the moon


  • The development of humanity is closely related to the extraction and processing of various natural raw materials

  • Some elements are more or less valuable, and the last group includes helium, whose value should increase significantly in the future

  • While helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, it is found in limited quantities on Earth

  • The ever-increasing demand for helium may mean that in the future we will start extracting it, for example on the Moon

  • You can find more such scripts on the Onet homepage

If all goes according to NASA's plan, humans will visit the Silver Globe again in a few years. Why is NASA returning to our satellite? This is a very complex issue, and one aspect may involve raw materials that could be transported from the Moon to Earth in the future. These include, among others: precious metals, as well as a certain element that may form the basis of our planet's energy policy in the future. We're talking about helium.

This noble gas is the second most common element in the universe (after hydrogen), but… not on Earth. In our country, helium is an element present in very limited quantities, which in a few decades may become one of the most valuable raw materials on our planet, contributing to the development of… Space mining – but step by step.

Humble beginnings

The official discovery of helium was made in 1895, and only a few years later, In 1905, huge deposits of this element were discovered in the United States, in natural gas deposits there. The US military quickly noticed helium's potential. Helium is a gas lighter than air and non-flammable, so it was ideal for making special balloons to defend against aircraft attacks during World War I. Other countries also wanted to use helium's properties, primarily as a gas for balloons, but… The US government considered it a strategic raw material and imposed strict control on its sales. For example, he did not want to make it available to the builders of the famous airship “Hindenburg”. So they used flammable hydrogen, and the tragic result of both decisions was the stunning Hindenburg disaster in 1937, when the airship burned to the ground on its approach to landing in the USA.

Image: Everett Collection/Shutterstock

I wonder how the history of airships would have ended if the United States in the 1920s had not had any problems purchasing helium to build these flying machines.

In the following years, helium's properties began to be used in other branches of American industry During World War II, the demand for this gas increased significantly. Then helium was used, among other things, in the arc welding process, and while working on the Manhattan Project, a spectrometer was created on its basis to detect and locate small leaks during the uranium enrichment process. Industrial helium also grew in popularity after the war, when it was used as a coolant in the production of rocket fuel during the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Suffice it to say that in 1965 the United States was already consuming eight times more helium than it had at its peak during World War II! However, the Cold War was just the beginning of this item's “career”.

Why is it a valuable raw material?

The value of helium results from several factors. Dr. M. Marta Waklawik He says:

The total annual use of this element is about 100 million cubic metres. annually and this number is likely only to grow. The demand for computer equipment, in which helium production plays an important role, is constantly increasing. The value of helium may also increase significantly in the future when… This gas, in the form of helium-3, could become a safe fuel for nuclear fusion reactors without radioactive waste.

 Photo: Afman

In fact, today helium is an extremely rare commodity and only a few countries in the world produce it. It may get worse in the future. This is due to the fact that helium resources on Earth are very limited (not to mention helium-3 is extremely rare) and currently the only profitable way to produce it is to obtain it from natural gas. And let's remember that Ultimately, we want to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which includes natural gas, the main source of this element on our planet.

Marta Waklawik adds:

Of course, the process of producing helium is likely to be constantly improved, and there is so much of it on Earth that we can extract and produce it for a long time if the need arises. However, it is also not difficult to meet them Voices demand that space be exploited for this element.

Will helium start a space mining craze?

 Image: NASA

As mentioned, helium is the second most popular element in the universe and is found in abundance in, for example… the moon! The concentration of helium in the layer of weathered rock covering our satellite is very high (Especially in shaded areas) It is increasingly common to hear that the Moon may be an excellent source of this raw material in the future. Especially in the helium-3 version, which is rare on Earth. Therefore, it is possible that helium could contribute to the development of space mining on the Moon. Especially if scientists develop a commercial fusion reactor using its analogues. In fact, some countries are already openly declaring their desire to engage in such a practice in the future, which could bring profits amounting to billions of dollars.

Of course, this is a distant future at the moment, but it does not change the fact that we should welcome all initiatives to increase the efficiency of helium production. In the long run, our civilization may feel its deficiency keenly.

>> See also: The end of the hyperloop dream. Why did Elon Musk's project fail? More losses for the billionaire

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