back to article China to map 'every inch' of the moon

China has announced plans to map "every inch" of the surface of the Moon as part of its ambitious space-exploration programme. The NSA (National Space Administration) also made no bones about China's commercial interest in space, telling reporters that the Moon holds the key to future generation of energy. Ouyang Ziyuan, head …


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  1. Funkster

    Long-term solution?

    Sounds very much like there will be the same problems as we're currently facing with oil - at some point in the distant future, the easily-mined Helium-3 will have been used up by an increasingly power-hungry collection of 'developed' nations, and energy prices will take another hike skyward.

    Only we'd be leaching all this material from the Moon, so that's okay...

  2. John Stag

    Colaboration needed...

    This is the sort of thing where the world should be working together not trying to make a profit.

    He3 could really bring about the sort of energy supply we were promised in the 1950s - "clean, safe, too cheap to meter".

  3. Paul


    They'll find an American flag and a lunar buggy there, right ?

  4. Steve

    China! F*ck Yeah !

    Go China. Make NASA and ESA look like the timid little space mice they are!

    Of course, now the control of future energy sources is on the table, see how quickly the USA develops an interest.

    Cracking stuff ! Perhaps the space race is due to kick off again, in which case, hoorah for the Red Chinee !

    Best news all week.

  5. Joe Blogs


    Is that 5 million tons earth weight ot lunar weight?

  6. Mike Brown

    3 phases?

    i really hope there isnt a long time between phase 2 and 3

  7. David Woods

    Helium-3 Nonsense

    Physics World (August 2007) did a nice debunking of this.

    In summery:

    The Deuterium-Tritium reaction is x100 faster than the Deuterium-Helium3...

    If we assume a Tokomak reactor, two Deuterium atoms will fuse to form Tritium and a proton relatively rapidly, thus providing the fuel for the rapid Deuterium-Tritium reaction.

    So the Deuterium-Helium3 might be cleaner, but how do you achieve it exclusively or even as the dominant process?

    Or perhaps the even slower Helium3-Helium3. Not even ITER will generate the heat needed to break even on that, never mind commercial generation.

    Inertia confinement perhaps? But with such a slow reaction what would the parameters of such a machine be?

    So what is the point of mining the moon for Helium-3?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wishing my life away

    "The country's space programme is split into three phases - the first is "circling the Moon", the second "landing on the Moon", and the third "returning to Earth"."

    Obviously this is about robot exploration. Nonetheless, if I was a Chinese astronaut - and I am not - I would be a little wary of any plan couched in those terms. I would want to make sure that the final part of the plan is in place before the first two parts.

    And put like that, conquering the moon seems very much like making love to a beautiful woman. First you have to establish an orbit; then you have to place a lunar module on a flat piece of ground near to an interesting crater; and then you have to return to Earth. Very similar.

  9. Matthew

    Oh goodie...

    Does this mean we will get to see the lunar rovers and all the other stuff left behind by the Apollo missions (or err is there actually nothing there because the Americans never walked on the moon?)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "on the Moon, the total amount of Helium-3 can reach one to five million tons.." *that's* why the moon doesn't fall to the ground.

    I always wondered.

    David Niven was right.

    The moon is indeed a balloon.

  11. Ken Hagan Gold badge


    That infallible source, Wikipedia, states that Helium-3 is present in the lunar regolith at about 1 part in a hundred million. It also states that the Helium is present because the solar wind has blown it in, so we're talking about a fairly even distribution rather than occasional rich seams of Helium-3-bearing rock.

    So to harvest that 100 tons of Helium-3, the Chinese are going to have to chew their way through 10 billions tons of rock per year. That's several cubic kilometres even if the extraction process is totally efficient. Are there any mining engineers reading this who could care to comment on the viability of this proposal?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Let's hope they get the "return to Earth" part right before they attempt the "land on the Moon" part, or the whole thing could turn very embarrassing very quickly.

  13. Andrew Moore


    I'd hate to be a Chinese astronaut during phase 2...

  14. Henry Gomersall


    1. Circle moon

    2. Land on moon

    3. ?

    4. Generate huge amounts of energy to sell to the world.

  15. Alastair Smith

    They missed a step...

    1. Fly them to the moon.

  16. Dan


    People's Republic Of Lunar !!!!

    Personally I don't really see China getting to the moon and exploiting it before NASA does. Not unless they really push themselves all out. But Im sure they'll well and truly exploit it for themselves and ignore the International agreements regarding space being for everyone and under UN jurisdiction so as to ensure fair use.

  17. Andy S

    Conspiracy theorists dream

    If this meticulous mapping of the moon turns up no traces of a previous landing they're going to love it

  18. Ryan

    The Reg - 10th August 12,015

    "Scientists are worried that Helium-3 supplies might soon run out"

    "USA to send troops to Moon to 'liberate' people of Lunaghistan"

    "Paris Hilton's head's 257th-Gen iPhone stolen"

  19. Dillon Pyron

    China's plans

    Lucy, I've bookmarked this page. I'll come back to it in 2012. It took the most technologically advanced country in the world 7 years to get to the moon once its plans were fired up.

    Of course, America doesn't have the will to do that again.

  20. Daniel

    If there's a fight....

    I can see a fight happening for resources. 5-15 million tons usually means 1 million tons really there, and only 500 thousand easily "mined". And going through 100 tons a year is a number I see growing exponentially... did we not learn from oil? Oh well, atleast it gets us off out rear ends and out to space for future R&D (I approve!)

    The only thing is, if we do fight, I hope we keep the fight in space. If you want a piece of the moon, so be it, blast eachother in space. If you want it on land, well, you're 100 years too late.

  21. SImon Hobson

    I'm not volunteering for phase 2

    >> The country's space programme is split into three phases - the first is "circling the Moon", the second "landing on the Moon", and the third "returning to Earth".

    Pity the poor scmuck who gets stuck on the moon at phase 2 and has to wait until phase 3 happens !

  22. Bill Neal

    He3 Nonsense? No...

    It's all about radiation. Excessive neutron radiation causes fusion reactors (using current technology) to destroy themselves. They can only run for several seconds, and it takes more power to start the reaction than you can harvest out of it. Why do you think there is no fusion power on the market today?

  23. Morely Dotes

    Beijing, get your brollies up!

    I just talked to Mike, and he said that anyone trying to steal the wealth of the Lunies will be on the receiving end of a bunch of thrown rocks.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's only a pretext .

    The cunning Chinese, who sell cheap clothing to mass-produce advanced weaponry, are about to go on a mission to the Moon to install a few nuclear base .

    Then, they will return to Earth after a few years and proudly declare : all your base are belong to us .

  25. Stuart Van Onselen

    No, the CTs won't be moved

    Several jokers or lunatics (pardon the pun) have made quips about whether this mapping process will discover the remains of the 6 (yes, Virginia, there were more than one) lunar landings to date.

    So what? Even if they do capture shots of the rovers or lander remains (those flags disintegrated decades ago due to UV radiation), no-one will change his mind.

    Those who know that humans landed there will still know it. And the Conspiracy Theorists will handwave it away, the same way that they handwave away the fact that the USSR could have exposed the supposed fakery at any time by virtue of their radio tracking capabilities.

  26. David Woods

    What use is Helium-3?

    "It's all about radiation. Excessive neutron radiation causes fusion reactors (using current technology) to destroy themselves."

    Maybe the hundreds of nuclear physicists who worked at/for JET and soon ITER know they are wasting their time... Or maybe your belief that the neutron issue is unsolvable isn't shared.

    What reaction are you proposing to use? H3-H3? Can you elaborate on how you might achieve it?

  27. Dave

    the Chinese phases

    Surely the Chinese have their lunar phases wrong – isn’t it New, Gibbous and Full? When the moon gets down really small they can push the American landing capsules off one of the pointy ends – something that might not occur to the ordinary mind, but I’m sure they’re on it.

  28. Ron Russman


    This is the kind of thing that is too important to miss. This reaction has already been done with electrostatic forces in a small reactor at the University of Wisconsin. 3He+3He > 2protons + 4He yields 12.9 MeV that is a higher yield than the other reactions. I'll bet some folks are very busy on this now.

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