In December 2020, China’s lunar probe Chang’E-5 returned soil samples from the moon to Earth that contained the first clear evidence that the moon has traces of water.

That raises hopes that a lunar settlement might be able to extract drinking water from the local landscape that also could serve as a source of hydrogen for fuel and oxygen to breathe. 

But wait—there’s more.

The China National Space Administration and the China Atomic Energy Authority jointly announced last week that the probe found a previously unknown mineral.

Dubbed “Changesite-(Y),” the mineral is colorless, translucent, and organizes itself in a column-like structure.

Confirmed as a new mineral by the International Mineralogical Association, it’s the sixth found on the moon and the first since the U.S. brought back samples of moon rock in 1976.

No less important, China’s haul also allowed scientists to calculate the amount of Helium-3 contained in moon dust.

Fusion engineers dream of Helium-3 as the perfect energy source. A gram of Helium-3 reacting with deuterium or “heavy water” would release 164.3 megawatt-hours of radiation-free energy, theoretically enough to power a city of 100,000 people for almost a week.

On Earth, Helium-3 appears only as a byproduct of the decay of radioactive tritium.

The annual global harvest is about 15 kilograms, or 33 pounds. However, according to Chinese scientists’ calculations, about 1.1 million metric tons of the stuff is scattered around the moon’s surface—at today’s prices, about $1.5 quadrillion worth.

“Each year, three space shuttle missions could bring enough fuel for all human beings across the world,” Ouyang Ziyuan, chief of China’s space exploration initiative, said in announcing the finding.

TRENDPOST: China’s discovery of the moon’s wealth, coming as NASA readies the launch of its Artemis 1 “mega moon mission,” will reignite interest in the moon, especially as a commercial property.

Government space agencies will tout the news as a reason to continue funding space exploration even amid budget crunches here on Earth.

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