As scientists debate on finding out whether or not exploring the moon is worth the expense, one thing is for sure. If we do not find a fiscal reason for visiting the moon, we may never populate its surface with humans.

(Red Orbit) Some boosters of the new moon missions argue that helium-3, an isotope rare on Earth but common on the moon’s surface, could be used to fuel nuclear fusion reactors on Earth. But no one knows if reactors based on helium-3 would be technically or economically feasible.

Even if the moon were made of solid gold, it’s doubtful that exporting lunar resources to Earth would be profitable. Manned missions using the space shuttle cost about $10,000 per pound of payload–about the price of a pound of gold.

If a helium-3 reactor can be feasibly built, humanity may get a financial incentive to explore the cosmos (although that incentive may only come through an oil shortage). Unless we can find an inexpensive way to lift objects into orbit, we may be stuck on this planet for the next century and a half (no joking here).

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