Gallery: Project Icarus Plans to Harvest Gas from Uranus for Interstell...


A group of scientists, working on a mission called Project Icarus, are exploring the possibility of harvesting gas from Uranus to fuel a theoretical mission to another star. Helium-3 is the gas they are after — the Earth’s supply ran out many moons ago — and it holds great potential for clean and efficient fusion power. In addition to fueling a very powerful engine that could send a probe to another star, Helium-3 could be a useful gas to have on hand on Earth — you’d need only 14,000 tons to power the entire planet for a year.

The scientists working on Project Icarus are thinking about shooting a rocket to Uranus with a robotic hot air balloon which could be filled with the gas and then float its merry way back to earth. Project Icarus is the re-incarnation of another interstellar travel project that was spearheaded in the 1970’s, called Project Daedalus. Project Daedalus meant to, “design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission in the coming centuries.”

The scientists working on the mission are attempting to use current, or near future technology to explore the possibility of an interstellar unmanned trip to Barnard’s star which is 5.9 light years away. A huge obstacle has been finding the right kind of fuel, as oil is just too heavy for any distant travel and the engine needed to push a probe 5.9 light years would need to be huge. They believe with Helium-3 on hand, they could have this probe ready by 2100.

Maybe we won’t see it fly off into outer space, but when it does, it could bring back some interesting information about the great unknown.


All photos from Project Icarus


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  1. blahgumbugg September 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    I didn’t read the article, but the headline was so funny I don’t even care.

  2. feline74 September 19, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Looks like the Rebel symbol from Star Wars on the Daedalus diagram. I suppose if X-Wings aren’t available yet . . .

  3. siiix June 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    they have plans to do the same thing on the moon, now on the moon the H3 concentration is a lot lower and harder to harvest BUT on the other hand the moon is much closer and a lot easier to transport the goods back to earth

  4. lazyreader June 3, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    At least they would harvest helium, not methane…….

  5. lazyreader June 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Helium 3 was the macguffin for the film “Moon” We have had limited concepts for extracting it from Earth’s moon. You need huge devices that weigh hundreds of tons to produce fusion style plasmas for only a few seconds. Huge devices like the ITER are still a few years away and other devices like the Z-machine or the NIF are far from practical. Even if we had a oil tanker full of the helium-3. Carl Sagan though supportive expressed great concern about the use of nuclear devices aboard spacecraft.

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