The ability to mine Helium-3 could have a tremendous impact on Earth and the environment. Helium-3 is a clean, non-radioactive energy source that could potentially power nuclear fusion reactors. Theoretically, a relatively small amount could produce enough clean fuel to power entire industries, if not the entire planet. It's for this reason that the Chinese have also announced plans to mine Helium-3 on the moon.
Another draw is tapping water on the moon's surface. Hydrogen and oxygen can then be separated to create rocket fuel for deep-space missions to Mars and beyond. Essentially, the moon can serve as a fueling station for spacecraft.
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"This year is a watershed year for Moon Express and America's commercial space industry," said Bob Richards, Moon Express' co-founder, president and CEO. "Just before the presidential election, NASA released a call for concepts for payloads to the moon to be delivered by private companies. That shows a rising tide of interest in the moon by our nation's space industry."
Thanks to a unique public-private partnership with NASA, Moon Express has access to NASA engineering expertise. It has licensed space launch complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral from the U.S. Air Force. The six-year-old start-up with a team of 30 already has contracts for payloads from the private sector and scientific community. They include the delivery of the international lunar observatory on the moon, retroreflector arrays to test principles of Einstein's general relativity theory and lunar geology, and human remains and DNA samples for space burial from Celestis.
In addition, Moon Express hopes to snare a contract for a payload from NASA for its first mission, said Richards.