This is the year for Moon Express, who just received another round of funding to pursue their goal of mining helium-3 from the moon.
A newer, quieter space race
Two years ago, we told you about a new race to get back to the moon to search for deposits of helium-3: A non-radioactive isotope that is ejected by the sun and believed to be covering the surface of the moon.
On Earth, helium-3 is incredibly rare. That’s because the Earth’s atmosphere blocks almost all of the helium-3 from reaching our planet.
The moon however, lacks a true atmosphere and therefore it makes sense that the helium-3 blowing through space would have accumulated huge deposits over the past few billion years.
But why do we want helium-3?
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The value of helium-3
It’s quite obvious that over the next century of so as our oil reserves continue to be depleted, humans are going to need a new source of energy.
Helium-3 is thought to be the key to that source of energy, assuming we can replicate the process of the stars and figure out nuclear fusion.
The amount of helium-3 thought to be on the moon would provide enough clean energy to power the entire Earth for at least 10,000 years.
A single ton of helium-3 is said to be worth about $3 billion. Yes— billion.
And so we now have some big players racing to figure out how to not only get to the moon, but also how to get a mining operation in place and figure out a way to get helium-3 back to Earth safely.
2017 is a big year for Moon Express
So two years ago, billionaire Naveen Jain co-founded Moon Express with the goal of winning Google’s LunarX Prize by soft landing on the moon, traveling at least 1,600 feet across the surface, and sending back live images to Earth.
The deadline is the end of this year.
Moon Express hit their first goal, becoming the first ever private company to be given permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit.
They also just announced that the company raised another $20 million to fund it’s mission and plans to land their MX-1 lunar craft on the moon this November.
If they are successful in winning Google’s $30 million prize, their next steps would include mining lunar resources like helium-3 and eventually even attempting to create human colonies.
Other players in the helium-3 moon race
It wouldn’t be a race if only one player was in the game. Moon Express will hope to beat out the Chinese, who are more than determined to get to the moon’s helium-3 reserves.
China plans to land its Chang’e 5 spacecraft on the moon, collect soil samples, and return to Earth this year as well. Russia and Japan have also expressed similar interests.
When we wrote about the race to get to the moon in 2017 to collect helium-3 just a few years ago, it still seemed a long ways away. But here we are now in 2017 and it should be a thrilling and fascinating year.
Who knows, we may look up to the night skies in just a few months and be witnessing the birth of the new helium-3 energy revolution.
What an exciting time!
Sources: Moon Express, CNBC, PBS, Google XPrize