Proposed Gas Mines on Uranus

Ack… some things are sent to try us… and this one has me really annoyed on several counts.

I recently came across an article suggesting that floating robotic factories mine Helium 3 (and methane) from the atmosphere of Uranus. This is being proposed as part of Project Icarus – a 5-year study looking at how to launch unmanned spacecraft to an interstellar destination. The spacecraft will need nuclear fuel… and this is where Helium-3 comes in.

So why Uranus. They argue that this gas giant has the lowest escape velocity of the big four (gas giants). Uranus’s rings are high and not showering the planet’s atmosphere with a hail of meteors, which of course is dangerous. The surface gravity (defined from the 1 bar pressure level in the atmosphere) is 90% that of Earth’s.

Full article can be found at:

So why am I annoyed?

1) I’m going to have add these gas miners into my novel Miranda… though to be fair they will only be background for what I was writing anyway. Still have to get these leetle details right.

2) They suggest only two viable designs for the robotic mining craft. The first uses nuclear powered ramjets and the second is balloons. There is actually a third design. I put it into my short story ‘Life Sentence’ and it uses methane fuel. If you don’t believe me, go get a copy of Issue 8 of Jupiter.

3) They used Uranus in preference to Neptune for the reasons stated. And these are very valid reasons. But I do think they need to look again at Neptune. Apart from anything else, if the planet is in the right part of the sky, it can be used as a last stop to take fuel on board.

Well, that’s me having a good old-fashioned grumble… grrr…


6 thoughts on “Proposed Gas Mines on Uranus

  1. This is interesting. In my story ‘Violence Breeds Violence, Repression Breeds Retaliation’, I have miners going after veins and nodes of monazite for thorium. This might actually prove to be more useful and interesting. Thanks you.

  2. Can’t we ‘mine’ hel;lium 3 on the moon? I thought the luner surface captured a fair amount from the solar wind.
    PS I called Helium 3 ‘Threelium’ in one of my so far unpublished stories.

    1. Hello Roy,
      It was good so see you at Alt.Fiction yesterday. The mining of Helium 3 on Uranus is no joke… though I can see why some people might think it is. The proposal came out of the British Interplanetary Society’s (BIS) five year study, Icarus. It is looking at serous proposals for interstellar flight.
      Yes, there have been various proposals to mine helium 3 from the Moon. The big but is that there just isn’t enough of the stuff to keep the human race happy. See the article below for some further details.
      Best Wishes, Rosie

  3. If we crawl before we run, ayms, then helium on the moon might let us stand up. Uranus as the ultimate source is fine but why notl start locally and move out. Maybe even near Earth asteroids would have enough to get us started.

    1. Totally agree about using the Moon first as we can get to it sooner. This of course presupposes we can develop the fusion technology… I believe the Polywell experiment is showing signs of success. But let’s not forget the Sun-Earth Lagrange L4 and L5 points. They would have a denser gas density capturing the Sun’s emitted hydrogen and helium….

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