Harrison Schmitt rushes across the lunar surface in search of important geological specimens. But just as the science got going the Apollo missions were scrapped.

“Government is too inefficient to make the costs come down to make another Moon landing economic. It will be an entrepreneurial effort” — Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut

6 December 2012 Last updated at 19:43 ET

Governments ‘too inefficient’ for future Moon landings

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

One of the last men to set foot on the Moon has said that private enterprise will be the driving force for a return to the lunar surface.

Harrison Schmitt told the BBC that governments are “too inefficient” to send humans back to the Moon.

Mr Schmitt’s comments come on the 40th anniversary of Nasa’s last manned mission to the Moon, Apollo 17.

The veteran astronaut said that companies would soon embark on a new commercially driven space race.

Speaking to the BBC World Service’s Discovery programme, he said that he felt that private firms could make a return on the huge investment needed to set up extra-terrestrial mining operations by garnering a new source of fuel called helium-3. The gas is similar to the helium used to blow up balloons, but has properties that some scientists believe make it the ideal fuel for nuclear fusion reactions.

“The economy of space and economy of settlements of the Moon will be supported by helium-3. When you have a reason to build rockets and spacecraft and mining machines, costs will come down,” he told BBC News.

Read more: BBC News – Governments 'too inefficient' for future Moon landings.

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