Lunar nuclear chase: India to search for futuristic trillion-dollar fuel on the Moon

Lunar nuclear chase: India to search for futuristic trillion-dollar fuel on the Moon
India is poised to send a rover to the moon on a mission to locate a form of clean nuclear fuel worth trillions of dollars - which scientists believe could fulfill the world’s energy needs for centuries.

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The country’s space agency will launch the Chandrayaan-2 rover in October. It will search for the Helium-3 fuel source.

Helium-3 can be found on Earth but is rare and expensive to mine. It is thought the moon has large deposits of the isotope and, if harnessed, could meet global energy demands for more than 200 years, experts predict.

India will join China as the two countries leading the chase to find helium-3 beneath the lunar surface.

“The countries which have the capacity to bring that source from the moon to Earth will dictate the process,’’ K Sivan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, told a media briefing in Vienna, according to Bloomberg. “I don’t want to be just a part of them, I want to lead them.’’

Chandrayaan-2 includes an orbiter, lander and a rectangular rover. The solar-powered vehicle will collect readings for 14 days and cover a 400-meter radius.

Unlike other nuclear reactions, the fusion of helium-3 atoms releases large amounts of energy without causing the surrounding material to turn radioactive. The result is that it is a completely clean form of radioactive energy, free of waste. The material is thought to have been embedded in the regolith, the layer of dusty deposits over the lunar surface.

Experts estimate that helium-3 could be worth up to US$10 billion a ton, meaning 250,000 tons would be worth trillions of dollars.

READ MORE: ‘Make it so’? Trump orders creation of US Space Force as military branch

The race for supremacy in the cosmos has reignited recently. Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced the creation of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the US military. During an address to the National Space Council in Washington, Trump said his plan included a bid to establish a permanent presence on the moon, with an eye to a future manned Mars mission.

China is the only country to put a lander and rover on the moon in recent years after launching the Chang’e 3 mission in 2013.

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