HON. HARRISON H. SCHMITT,CHAIRMAN
INTERLUNE-INTERMARS INITIATIVE, INC.
P.O. Box 90730
Albuquerque, NM 87199
505 823 2616
SUBCOMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SPACE
SENATE COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
SENATOR SAM BROWNBACK, CHAIRMAN
NOVEMBER 6, 2003
RETURN TO THE MOON
The Apollo 17 mission on which I was privileged to fly in December 1972 was the most recent visit by human beings to the Moon, indeed to deep space. A return by Americans to the Moon at least 40 years after the end of the Apollo 17 mission probably would represent a commitment to return to stay. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine how a sustained commitment to return would develop in this country.
I must admit to being skeptical that the U.S. Government can be counted on to make such a "sustained commitment" absent unanticipated circumstances comparable to those of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Therefore, I have spent much of the last decade exploring what it would take for private investors to make such a commitment. At least it is clear that investors will stick with a project if presented to them with a credible business plan and a rate of return commensurate with the risk to invested capital. My colleagues at the Fusion Technology Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Interlune-Intermars Initiative, Inc. believe that such a commercially viable project exists in lunar helium-3 used as a fuel for fusion electric power plants on Earth.
Global demand and need for energy will likely increase by at least a factor of eight by the mid-point of the 21st Century. This factor represents the total of a factor of two to stay even with population growth and a factor of four or more to meet the aspirations of people who wish to significantly improve their standards of living. There is another unknown factor that will be necessary to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, whether warming or cooling, and the demands of new, energy intensive technologies.
Helium has two stable isotopes, helium 4, familiar to all who have received helium-filled baloons, and the even lighter helium 3. Lunar helium-3, arriving at the Moon as part of the solar wind, is imbedded as a trace, non-radioactive isotope in the lunar soils. It represents one potential energy source to meet this century's rapidly escalating demand. There is a resource base of helium-3 of about 10,000 metric tonnes just in upper three meters of the titanium-rich soils of Mare Tranquillitatis. This was the landing region for Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 in 1969. The energy equivalent value of Helium-3 delivered to operating fusion power plants on Earth would be about $4 billion per tonne relative to today's coal. Coal, of course, supplies about half of the approximately $40 billion domestic electrical power market. These numbers illustrate the magnitude of the business opportunity for helium-3 fusion power to compete for the creation of new electrical capacity and the replacement of old plant during the 21st Century…
Alvin Toffler gives a bronx cheer to lunar helium energy here.