Lunar Lunacy?

The question of who owns the moon is about to become political reality. In January, Nasa issued invitations for companies to apply launch mining operations on the moon, though a lot more research is needed to see if there is anything worth mining. The prize potentially on offer is the extraction of Helium-3, a variant of the everyday helium found in balloons. Helium-3 is extremely rare on earth and is used in specialist MRI scanners and military sensors to detect smuggled uranium or plutonium. The most exciting prospect is that Helium-3 is thought to be perfect for generating energy through nuclear fusion. This would offer a source that is more abundant and yet cleaner and safer than any other nuclear energy. There is, however, the small matter of bringing it back from the moon. Even if it turns out that Helium-3 is present on the moon it is likely to be a long time before anyone can collect it. Mining would require the construction of factories for extracting moon dust on the lunar surface. It would then require the biggest ever shuttle service of spacecraft to transport the gas back to earth.

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