The space-faring nations have ignored the 1979 outer space treaty, and last year America's Space Act removed legal obstacles to extra terrestrial activity, and many people are gearing up to mine one of the most valuable substances that occurs in nature.
This extraordinary substance is the isotope helium-3, invaluable in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations on Earth, and providing an all-powerful rocket fuel.
It is rare on Earth, being blown away by the solar wind. It is found in Troclotite, a metal of magnesium and iron, again rare but plentiful in the Moon’s crust.
All nuclear power plants react to produce heat. This turns water into steam that drives a turbine. Current nuclear power plants have nuclear fission reactors to split uranium . This releases energy, but also radioactive nuclear waste that must be stored indefinitely. For over 40 years scientists have been trying to achieve this.
But there are around a million tons of helium-3 on the moon’s surface down to a few metres. This helium-3 could be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 1,200 degrees F before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a new generation of nuclear fusion power plants.
A fully-loaded spaceship’s cargo base could power a quarter of the world for a year. This means that helium-3 has a potential economic value in the order of about £1 billion a ton, making it the Moon’s most valuable commodity except perhaps for astronomy and promoting tourism.
China's lunar exploration programme is proceeding fast, strongly attracted by the prospect of helium-3 mining. In 2013 China managed to land a lunar robot lander. The final stage of their current programme intends sending a robotic craft to the Moon that will return lunar rocks to the Earth.
Returning to the present, there are wonderful things to see in the winter night sky. The Milky Way itself is a marvel of strange nebulousness. No wonder some ancient Greeks thought it was milk, not a vast mass of billions of stars.
Another is the four moons of Jupiter. Look up at the striped, monstrous giant to see its four biggest moons in their extraordinary variety; Io, with its many active volcanoes; Europa, with an ocean beneath its ice, not to mention asteroid-battered Callisto and Ganymede.
Their discovery by Galileo around 1610 literally created observational astronomy, and was perhaps one of the greatest achievements in science. A tragedy that his labour produced scoffs and contempt in many quarters ("what use are these so-called moons?") someone jeered. With his condemnation by the Inquisition, they did much to damage Italian science.
Then there are those two dazzling gems of the north, the Pleiades, with its probable unpleasant effects on Earth's climate during the last few million years; and the Whirlpool Galaxy, first studied by the 3rd Earl of Ross in 1840 through his 36-inch telescope at Birr Castle in Ireland.
And one can hardly do a survey of this kind without mentioning the blazing stars of Orion still visible in mid-winter. It is difficult to imagine objects more awe-inspiring.
The current tremendous formation of the Sun’s planets have already been reported, and there is little I can to enhance these great impressions.
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