Energy On The Moon

Helium 3 is a byproduct of tritium, which is used in nuclear weapons, so the exact amount present on Earth is a secret. However, it cannot be too abundant because scientists using the isotope for research are struggling to pay the rising prices as the supply dwindles. Market price was set at $1000 a gram in the 2000s, moved to $7000 a gram in 2011, and is projected to cost tens of thousands of dollars soon thereafter. Helium 3 works in sensors to detect the presence of nuclear material, so governments place the isotope in high demand. Scientists are presently working on ways to produce Helium 3 through fusion without the use of tritium, which would be much safer and reduce the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation. However, they still have years to go before this method can be perfected.

The Moon has about 1 million tons of Helium 3, and scientists have a good knowledge about its whereabouts. Plans to bring it back to Earth were in the works, but moon landings have been stalled since then, and these hopes have therefore been largely forfeited. Some scientists working on the research are arguing for a return trip to be made though because trillions of dollars are believed to be there�Helium 3 on the Moon is estimated to be worth about $150 million per 100 kilograms. There are obvious large overhead costs to the project, but it seems worth the effort when compared to the costs of using other fuels like oil and coal. Investors are wary about investing money into the project however since the fusion research is still in its beginning stages. In fact, there seems to be no end date or breakthrough date in sight. Helium 3 is also low in concentration on the Moon, so quite a bit of lunar soil and other particles would have to be extricated as well when mining for Helium 3.

Proponents for the mission argue that obtaining the isotope is not the only incentive for returning to the Moon. They suggest that exploring the Moon further, as well as searching for other elements present there would make another trip worthwhile. Gerald Kulcinski, nuclear engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin, who is heading up the Helium 3 fusion project, says that this experiment could give power to the Earth for thousands of years. Kulcinski sees the Moon as a method for securing long-term clean energy �because this is really an enormous source of energy. There is 10 times more energy there than there ever was in fossil fuel on the Earth.� With those odds, it seems like harvesting the Moon for Helium 3 is a worthwhile endeavor, but Kulcinski still needs to convince investors to provide funds to back up the project.

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