The huge availability of Helium 3 in the moon can be a source to solve future energy needs of earth, Former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G Madhavan Nair said.
Speaking on Moon Mission at the three-day Global Conference on Cosmologies, which began at the National Institute of Advanced Studies here, Dr Nair said, ”If we can excavate, release and bring it to the earth, it will be a fantastic contribution by the Indian space sector.” He said in next 10-15 years India could have robotic excavations that can get helium on the Moon,” he said.
(He-3) is a light, non-radioactive isotope of Helium with two protons and one neutron. It is rare on Earth, and is sought for use in nuclear fusion research.
Referring to detection of Helium-3 on the moon’s surface during India’s Moon Mission Programme, he said, ”Helium-3 was indirect finding.”
The discovery of a helium isotope, helium-3, on the moon has given scientists ideas on how to produce electricity far more efficiently than with hydrocarbons or current nuclear plants. The large amounts of energy would come without danger of releasing radioactive substances into the atmosphere.
Helium-3 is considered a safe, environmentally friendly fuel.
NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration has U.S. astronauts scheduled to be back on the moon in 2020 and permanently staffing a base there by 2024.
But America is not the only nation with plans for a moon base. China, India, the European Space Agency, and at least one Russian corporation, Energia, have visions of building manned lunar bases post-2020.
The Chinese, too, apparently believe that helium-3 from the moon can enable fusion plants on Earth. This fall, the People’s Republic expects to orbit a satellite around the moon and then land an unmanned vehicle there in 2011.
Simultaneously, Japan and Germany are also making noises about launching their own moon missions at around that time, and talking up the possibility of mining He3 and bringing it back to fuel fusion-based nuclear reactors on Earth.
At present market prices of petroleum products, a tonne of Helium-3 costs not less than Rs 13,500 crore as against Rs 140 crore per tonne of gold. It is precious than enriched uranium, not only in terms of its value but also in terms of radioactive Emission.Helium-3 is clean and less radioactive than uranium and thorium. And the Moon is said to have one million tonnes of Helium-3. Chandrayaan-1 will explore whether the Moon has even larger stocks of this clean nuclear fuel. According to ISRO scientists, Helium-3 is present in the Moon’s regolith (loose rocks or mantle) just below the surface of its false seas (maria).
Incidentally, Helium-3 is the only lunar resource worth extracting and bringing back to Earth. The human planet too has Helium-3 reserves, but they are less than 200 kgs. A tonne and a half of Helium-3 is sufficient to light up India for 365 days.
India’s total yearly consumption being far less at 130,000 MW, the same 25 tonnes of He3 will fire India’s consumption for several years. India has an ambitious dream of producing 400,000 MW by 2030.The He3 reactors will only become a reality 50 years hence, It is a futuristic fuel, if at all.
India will have a greater advantage under the IPR regime, since it has not only spent Rs 386 crore on the mission but also came out with new findings on Helium-3.