A Startup Will Try to Mine Helium-3 on the Moon

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Two of Blue Origin's earliest employees, erstwhile president Rob Meyerson and main designer Gary Lai, person started a institution that seeks to extract helium-3 from nan lunar surface, return it to Earth, and waste it for applications here.

The institution has been operating successful stealth since its founding successful 2022, but it emerged connected Wednesday by announcing it has raised $15 million, adding to erstwhile rounds of angel investments.

This is simply a notable announcement because, while nan backing is small, nan implications are perchance large. Lately, location has been a batch of chat of a “lunar economy” successful spaceflight but precious small clarity connected what that means. Most firms that person announced business plans to motorboat rockets to nan moon, onshore connected nan moon, aliases execute different activities location person been doing truthful pinch nan intent of trading services aliases lunar h2o to NASA aliases different parties fulfilling authorities contracts. Put different way, location has been nary wealthiness creation, and ultimately, NASA is nan customer.

The coming lunar unreserved is alternatively for illustration a California golden unreserved without nan gold.

By harvesting helium-3, which is uncommon and constricted successful proviso connected Earth, Interlune could thief alteration that calculus by deriving worth from resources connected nan moon. But galore questions astir nan attack remain. First of all, nan institution must devise a intends of extracting nan state from nan lunar regolith, nan abrasive, rocky, and dirt-like worldly connected nan aboveground of nan moon. Then it must return nan helium-3 to Earth. There is presently nary intends of doing so. Finally, it must beryllium that location will beryllium a ample and sustained marketplace for nan unchangeable isotope connected Earth to support its business.

However, pinch NASA investing tens of billions of dollars successful nan Artemis Program to return humans to nan moon, Meyerson is convinced that now is nan clip to piggyback connected those transportation, power, and different resources to commencement a lunar mining company. It would not person been imaginable astatine immoderate clip earlier now. It whitethorn beryllium hardly imaginable today.

“Helium-3 is nan only assets retired location that is priced precocious capable to support going to nan satellite and bringing it backmost to Earth,” Meyerson said successful an interview. “There are customers that want to bargain it today.”

A Useful Helium Isotope

Helium-3 is simply a unchangeable isotope of helium pinch 2 protons and 1 neutron. It is produced by fusion successful nan sun and transported by nan star wind. However, Earth's magnetosphere deflects this watercourse of particles distant from nan planet.

The worldly does not hap people connected Earth, and it exists successful only very constricted quantities from atomic weapons tests, atomic reactors, and radioactive decay. A azygous liter costs a fewer 1000 dollars, and location are efforts to recycle it by nan US Department of Energy. Because location is nary magnetosphere astir nan moon, it's believed location are ample quantities of helium-3 state trapped successful pockets of nan lunar regolith.

Meyerson said that successful nan adjacent term, location is sizeable request for helium-3 successful nan superconducting quantum computing manufacture and for aesculapian imaging. Longer term, location is imaginable for operating a fusion reactor pinch helium-3 arsenic a fuel. This is thing that has agelong been advocated by group for illustration Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, a geologist who flew connected Apollo 17 to nan moon. However, location are superior questions successful nan technological organization astir nan viability of this approach.