A fledgling startup called Interlune is trying to become the first private company to mine the moon’s natural resources and sell them back to Earth. Interlune will initially focus on helium-3 – an isotope of helium created by the sun through the fusion process – which is abundant on the moon. In an interview with Ars Technica, Rob Myerson, one of Interlune’s founders and a former president of Blue Origin, said the company hopes to fly its harvester on one of the upcoming commercial NASA-backed lunar missions. The plan is to have a pilot installation on the moon by 2028 and be operational by 2030, Myerson said.

Interlune announced this week that it has raised $18 million in funding, including $15 million in the latest round led by Seven Seven Six, the venture firm founded by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. The resource it targets, helium-3, can be used on Earth for applications such as quantum computing, medical imaging and, perhaps someday, as fuel for fusion reactors. Helium-3 is carried to the Moon by solar winds and is thought to remain on the surface, trapped in the soil, until when it reaches Earth it is blocked by the magnetosphere.

Interlune aims to mine massive amounts of lunar soil (or regolith), process it, and extract helium-3 gas to then send back to Earth. Along with its own lunar harvester, Interlune is planning a robotic lander mission to assess the concentration of helium-3 at a selected location on the surface.

Graphic showing how helium-3 is produced by the sun, travels to the moon, and is deflected by Earth's magnetosphere


“For the first time in history,” Myerson said in a statement, “harvesting natural resources from the Moon is technologically and economically feasible.” The founding team includes Meyerson and former Blue Origin chief architect Gary Lai, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison H. Schmidt, former Rocket Lab CEO Indra Hornsby and James Antifaev, who worked on Alphabet’s high-altitude balloon project, Loon .