Adam Crowl is the leader of fuel acquisition for Project Icarus, an ambitious five-year study into launching an unmanned spacecraft to an interstellar destination. Travelling to another star requires great distances to be traversed, distances that are currently beyond the scope of our space vehicles. A fusion-powered craft, however, could reach speeds high enough to make the journey feasible. The element helium-3 would be especially effective at powering such a craft, says Crowl, and could eventually be sourced from Uranus by sending hot-air balloons to drift in the planet’s gassy atmosphere.
What’s the Big Idea?
Sourcing energy from other worlds may sound exotic, even impossible, but the reality is at least conceivable, says Crowl. What’s more, the abundance of helium-3 on Uranus could be used to meet the world’s energy needs here at home. “A starprobe might launch by the year 2100 and if world energy demands continue to increase at their historic rate of 2.5 percent, then by 2100 about 14,000 tons of deuterium/helium-3 fuel-mix would supply the world’s energy demand per year, adding an incentive to develop the gas-mines of Uranus.”