The Indian Space Research Organization has revealed that it will launch a lunar mission to explore that south side of the moon in October.
The Chandrayaan-2 mission is India's second lunar mission and will mark the first time any country has visited the south side of the moon.
The mission includes a lander, an orbiter and a rectangular rover powered by solar energy. Data gathered by the rover will be sent to the lander, which will then transmit these back to ISRO for analysis.
The 6-wheeled Chandrayaan-2 rover will analyze the lunar crust to find traces of water and helium-3, an isotope crucial for the development of fusion energy on Earth.
"The mission will carry a six-wheeled Rover which will move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands," ISRO said. "The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil."
Countries and companies worldwide are keen on exploiting helium-3 as scientists hope that the isotope can be used in a kind of nuclear fusion that does not produce radioactive waste, something that may provide safer nuclear energy.
Nuclear fusion is a process that powers the sun. It involves smashing hydrogen atoms to produce helium and release massive amounts of energy. Once fusion energy is captured, it could serve as a source of unlimited energy on our planet.
The isotope is already produced on Earth and is currently used for detecting illicit radioactive materials. Unfortunately, helium-3 is rare and very expensive. Gerald Kulcinski, a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, estimated its value at about $5 billion per ton.
The moon, however, has plenty of this isotope. Solar winds were able to bombard Earth's natural satellite with a massive amount of helium-3 because it is not protected by a magnetic field. The presence of the isotope on the moon was confirmed in samples returned by the Apollo missions.
About 1 million metric tons of helium-3 is possibly embedded on the moon albeit only a quarter could be possibly brought back to Earth.
Hunt For Helium-3 Deposits On The Moon
India appears to be among those in the forefront in the search and possible exploitation of helium-3 for fusion energy. China is the only country to send a rover to the moon this century and one of its mission objectives is to find helium-3 deposits on the lunar surface.