Strip-mining the Moon: Bad idea, or the worst idea?
As a millennial, I don't share boomers' enthusiasm for the power of science to solve all problems. So when someone says that strip-mining the Moon for rocks rich in helium-3, heating the rocks to harvest the helium, and using that helium for nuclear fusion will solve the world's energy problems, I am inclined to say, “Ha! You power-mad old person, you are living in a science fiction story.” But that, in fact, may be the direction humanity is heading in, Moon-wise.
Strip-mining the Moon won't be profitable until scientists perfect nuclear fusion. So far they've only gotten that process going for a few seconds, but real non-made-up scientists contacted for this post said that "It's totally possible. We're totally going to do it. It's going to be awesome." Helium-3 would produce a clean fusion process, leaving little of the radioactive waste that plagues nuclear fission, the process that nuclear plants use now. But Helium-3 is found rarely on Earth and is therefore worth $16 million dollars per kilo. With prices like that, resource extraction on the Moon all of a sudden becomes a fairly reasonable economic activity to pursue. EVEN THOUGH IT IS INSANE.
Seriously, does this sound like a bad idea to anyone else? I, for one, am worried that pursuing the so-called "golden dream of nuclear fusion" will have some unintended consequences. But at least we’ll know what to tell the monkey when it asks why we’re blowing up the Moon:
Get Grist in your inbox