By Ryan Lau | @agorisms
In recent years, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has made tremendous progress. Among other things, they have developed cryogenic engines and had numerous successful rocket liftoffs.
In fact, just this year, ISRO broke a major record. In February, they sent 104 satellites into orbit with a single launch, shattering the previous high of 37. However, even this pales in comparison to the organization’s next big move.
With a new mission dubbed Chandrayaan-2, India is sending a rocket to the dark side of the Moon.
The Second Space Race
No country thus far has landed on the Moon’s south side, which in reality, is only dark half of the time. India, currently in a space race with China, hopes to become the first country to do so.
Currently, both countries seek a launch for the second half of 2018. It is not clear which will accomplish the feat first, though India hopes to launch in October.
A Hope for Helium-3
Once launched, Chandrayaan-2 will begin an even more essential segment of the mission: looking for mining potential on the Moon’s surface.
Due to solar wind, the Moon has a large quantity of the Helium-3 isotope on its surface. Unlike most element isotopes, Helium-3 is not radioactive and produces no nuclear waste. For this reason, scientists believe that it could incredibly useful for the future of nuclear fusion.
Currently, the moon is estimated to have about 1 million metric tons of Helium-3. Humans are capable of mining roughly one quarter of that amount, one scientist estimates.
Gerald Kulcinski, director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Fusion Technology Institute and former NASA Advisory Council member, states that this is still an astronomical value.
Kulcinski estimates that each ton of Helium-3 is worth roughly five billion US dollars. At this price, the total mined value of the Moon’s Helium-3 would be 1.25 quadrillion dollars, or 1,250 trillion.
To put that into perspective, this would be enough money to pay off the United States national debt roughly 60 times, or to give every human being in the world a lump sum of over $160,000.
Too Good to be True?
These figures, of course, do not take into account the mass expenses of bringing a quarter million tons of anything from the Moon to the Earth, which serves as a critical step to overcome before a great deal of mining can occur.
Moreover, knowledge of the uses of Helium-3 is currently limited. Much more research is necessary before the isotope can become a major source of energy.
If successfully mined in the future, this amount of Helium-3 has the potential to fuel the world for 200 to 500 years, and Rakesh Sharma, India’s lone spaceman who spent eight days on a Russian probe, wants to make it happen.
“I want India to show that we’re capable of utilizing space technology for the good of the people,” Sharma declared.
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