India unveils spacecraft that will look for energy sources on the moon

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Image courtesy PIB

Chandrayaan-2, India’s second lunar mission, will explore the south side of the moon, a region where no mission has ever set foot.  India’s space agency unveiled last week the spacecraft that it hopes will get to the Moon by September, making the country the fourth to achieve a soft landing on the Earth’s natural satellite after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Chandrayaan-2, India’s second lunar mission, is scheduled to lift off on July 15, Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO) said. It comes more than a decade after the country launched its first lunar mission, Chandrayaan-1, which was just an orbiter and never landed on the moon.

The second lunar mission is expected to hunt for energy sources on the moon.

There are an estimated one million tonnes of helium-3 on the moon, though only 25% of that could be brought to Earth, Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council told Bloomberg last year.

But that is enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and maybe as many as five years. It is estimated that helium-3 is worth almost $5 billion a tonne.

India isn’t the only country getting on board the lunar mining train. Both China and the European Union have recently floated ideas about extracting helium-3 from the Earth’s natural satellite. Beijing, in fact, has already landed on the moon twice in the 21st century, with more missions to follow.

After being considered mostly a science-fiction tale, governments are now rushing to implement programs and legislation that allow them to join the race for mining in space.

Luxembourg launched an official initiative to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals. Canada is also eying the moon. Last year, Ontario-based Deltion Innovations partnered with Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit on future opportunities in outer space. Geologists as well as emerging companiesbelieve asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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