A company will try to mining on the Moon

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POSITIVE
Two of Blue Origin’s earliest employees, former President Rob Meyerson and Chief Architect Gary Lai, have started a company that seeks to extract helium-3 from the lunar surface, return it to Earth, and sell it for applications here.
The company has been operating in stealth since its founding in 2022, but it emerged on Wednesday by announcing it has raised $15 million, adding to previous rounds of angel investments.
This is a notable announcement because, while the funding is small, the implications are potentially large.
Lately, there has been a lot of discussion of a ‘lunar economy’ in spaceflight but precious little clarity on what that means.
Most firms that have announced business plans to launch rockets to the Moon, land on the Moon, or perform other activities there have been doing so with the intent of selling services or lunar water to NASA or other parties fulfilling government contracts.
Put another way, there has been no wealth creation, and ultimately, NASA is the customer.
The present lunar rush is rather like a California gold rush without the gold.
By harvesting helium-3, which is rare and limited in supply on Earth, Interlune could help change that calculus by deriving value from resources on the Moon.
But many questions about the approach remain.
First of all, the company must devise a means of extracting the gas from the lunar regolith, the abrasive, rocky, and dirt-like material on the surface of the Moon.
Then it must return the helium-3 to the Earth.
There is currently no means of doing so.
Finally, it must prove that there will be a large and sustained market for the stable isotope on Earth to support its business.
AdvertisementHowever, with NASA investing tens of billions of dollars in the Artemis Program to return humans to the Moon, Meyerson is convinced that now is the time to piggyback on those transportation, power, and other resources to start a lunar mining company.
It would not have been possible at any time before now.
It may be barely possible today.
“Helium-3 is the only resource out there that is priced high enough to support going to the Moon and bringing it back to Earth,” Meyerson said in an interview.
“There are customers that want to buy it today.”
A useful helium isotopeHelium-3 is a stable isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron.
It is produced by fusion in the Sun and transported by the Solar wind.
However, Earth’s magnetosphere deflects this stream of particles away from the planet.
The material does not occur naturally on Earth, and it exists in only very limited quantities from nuclear weapons tests, nuclear reactors, and radioactive decay.
A single liter costs a few thousand dollars, and there are efforts to recycle it by the US Department of Energy.
Because there is no magnetosphere around the Moon, it’s believed there are large quantities of helium-3 gas trapped in pockets of the lunar regolith.

Rob Meyerson, the former president of Blue Origin, and Gary Lai, the chief architect, founded a company that aims to retrieve helium-3 from the lunar surface, bring it back to Earth, and sell it for use in this planet’s applications.

Since its establishment in 2022, the business has operated covertly, but on Wednesday it revealed it had raised $15 million to supplement earlier rounds of angel investments.

Despite the modest funding, there could be significant ramifications, which makes this announcement noteworthy. The term “lunar economy” has been bandied about a lot in spaceflight recently, but its exact definition is still up for debate. The intention of the majority of companies that have declared their intentions to send rockets to the Moon, land there, or carry out other operations there has been to sell lunar water or services to NASA or other organizations that are carrying out government contracts. Stated differently, money has not been created, and NASA is the end user.

Like a California gold rush, only without the gold. That is how the current lunar rush is.

By extracting value from resources on the Moon, Interlune could assist in altering that calculation by harvesting helium-3, which is scarce and hard to come by on Earth. But there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding the strategy. In order to extract gas from the lunar regolith—a stony, abrasive substance that resembles dirt—the company must first come up with a plan. After that, it has to deliver the helium-3 back to Earth. As of right now, there’s no way to do that. In order to maintain its business, it must also demonstrate that there will be a sizable and stable market for the stable isotope on Earth.

promotion.

Nevertheless, Meyerson is certain that the time has come to capitalize on the transportation, electricity, and other resources provided by NASA’s tens of billions of dollars in the Artemis Program, which aims to bring humans back to the Moon. Any earlier and it would not have been feasible. Perhaps it’s hardly feasible now.

According to Meyerson, “the only resource that is currently available that is priced high enough to support going to the Moon and bringing it back to Earth” is helium-3. “Some consumers wish to purchase it right now. “.

an advantageous isotope of helium.

With two protons and one neutron, helium-3 is a stable isotope of helium. Fusion occurs in the Sun to produce it, and the Solar wind carries it away. Nevertheless, this stream of particles is diverted away from the planet by Earth’s magnetosphere.

The substance is not found naturally on Earth and is only present in extremely small amounts as a result of radioactive decay, nuclear weapons testing, and nuclear reactors. The US Department of Energy is working to recycle the few thousand dollars that a single liter costs. It is thought that significant amounts of helium-3 gas are trapped in pockets of the lunar regolith due to the absence of a magnetosphere surrounding the moon.

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