Lunar tunes

10.08.08: THE JAPANESE lunar probe Muses-F, partly funded by Disney, has returned to Earth with 8.6kg of helium-3, a close cousin of the gas used to fill Mickey Mouse balloons.

Essentially non-existent on the Earth, helium-3 is seen as the perfect fuel for a nuclear fusion reactor. A commercial version of such a reactor, designed to harness the power source of the sun, is just a decade or two away.

Muses-F mined the helium-3 from the lunar crust, where it is relatively common on the top three metres.

Though worthless today, the gas could become the most valuable commodity in the world once fusion reactors come on stream.

'We should keep an eye on the Japanese,' said an energy analyst at the World Bank. 'They are attempting to corner the market on the fuel of the 21st century.' MC