Mining Uranus for Fuel

If humans hope to achieve long-distance space travel, a fusion powered space craft currently holds the most promise. Adam Crowl of Project Icarus says we may source its fuel from Uranus.

Mining Uranus for Fuel

What's the Latest Development?


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."

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

A close up of Bathynomus raksasa

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Will AI replace mathematicians?

If computers can beat us at chess, maybe they could beat us at math, too.

Credit: Patrick Lux via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Most everyone fears that they will be replaced by robots or AI someday.
  • A field like mathematics, which is governed solely by rules that computers thrive on, seems to be ripe for a robot revolution.
  • AI may not replace mathematicians but will instead help us ask better questions.
Keep reading Show less

"Laughing gas" may offer quick, long-lasting relief from depression

Laughing gas may be far more effective for some than antidepressants.

Credit: fotodiya83 / Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Standard antidepressant medications don't work for many people who need them.
  • With ketamine showing potential as an antidepressant, researchers investigate another anesthetic: nitrous oxide, commonly called "laughing gas."
  • Researchers observe that just a light mixture of nitrous oxide for an hour alleviates depression symptoms for two weeks.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast