May 30, 2024

Mining On The Moon

This is how Mining on the Moon would look like

Since the Apollo mission, countries and private firms have been talking about setting up a base on the moon. Much more recently, ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1’s discovery of water molecules on the surface of the Moon has opened the possibility of mining on the Moon. But is that all the Moon has to offer?

Solar winds have bombarded the moon with immense quantities of Helium-3 because it’s not protected by a magnetic field like Earth is. The presence of Helium-3 was confirmed in moon samples returned by the Apollo missions, and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt.

The upcoming launch in October of ISRO’s Chandrayaan-2 includes an orbiter, lander and a rover. The primary objective of Chandrayaan-2 is to search for deposits of Helium-3 on the southern side of the moon. Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope which can provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor without the production of dangerous waste products.

ISRO’s Chandrayaan 2

“There are an estimated 1 million metric tons of helium-3 embedded in the moon, though only about a quarter of that realistically could be brought to Earth”, said Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council. “That’s still enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and possibly as many as five, centuries”, Kulcinski said. He estimated helium-3’s value at about $5 billion a ton, meaning 250,000 tons would be worth in the trillions of dollars.

“The countries which have the capacity to bring that source from the moon to Earth will dictate the process,’’ said K. Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). “I don’t want to be just a part of them, I want to lead them.’’

“We are ready and waiting,’’ said Sivan, an aeronautics engineer who joined ISRO in 1982. “We’ve equipped ourselves to take on this particular program.’’

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