Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mining the Moon Could Give Us Enough Rocket Fuel- Says Student Researcher

mining of moon

2017 Caltech Space Challenge

It’s been forty five years since man had last set foot on space and now the moon is said to be the focus of effort for not only exploring space but alsoto develop aenduring, independent space managing society.Scheduling an expedition to the nearest celestial neighbour of Earth is now no longer just an effort of NASA but the space agency of U.S has ideas for a moon-orbiting space station which would be serving as a performing ground for Mars mission in the early 2030s.

 A joint project – the United Launch Alliance between Lockheed Martin and Boeing has scheduled a lunar fuelling station for spacecraft with the potential of supporting 1,000 people living in space within 30 years. Billionaires Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos as well as Robert Bigelow have companies focussed on delivering people or goods to the moon.

 Many teams competing in partaking in the share on the cash prize of US$30 of Google are intending to launch travellers to the moon. Recently a few together with 27 other students from across the world had contributed in the 2017 Caltech Space Challenge suggesting designs on what a lunar launch and supply station for deep space mission could appear like and how it would function.

Moon – One-Sixth of Gravity of Earth

Presently all space missions depend on and are launched from Earth though its gravitational pull seems to be strong. In order to get into orbit, the rocket needs to be travelling 11 km a second – 25,000 miles per hour.

A rocket leaving Earth needs to carry the fuel essential to reach its destination and if needed to return back again. The fuel is said to be heavy and moving with it at such high speeds would take a lot of energy. If the refuelling is done in orbit, the launch energy could lift more travellers or cargo or scientific equipment in orbit.

The spacecraft could then refuel in space where the gravity of the Earth seems to be less powerful.The moon is said to have one-sixth of the gravity of Earth making it a pretty substitute base. Besides this, it also has ice wherein we are aware how to process into a hydrogen-oxygen propellant which can be utilised in several recent rockets.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite missions of NASA have now found considerable quantity of ice in long-lasting shadowed craters on the moon.


These would be tricky locations to mine since they tend to be colder and have no sunlight to power wandering vehicles. But big mirrors on the rims of the craters could be installed in order to illuminate solar panels in the permanently shaded regions.

Travellers set to launch in 2020 from Lunar X Prize competition from Google and Lunar Resource Prospector from NASA would also be contributing in locating good areas to mine ice. Based on where the best reserves of ice seem to be, it would be essential to build many small robotic moon bases. Each would mine ice, manufacture liquid propellant as well as transfer the same to passing spacecraft.

A plan of accomplishing these tasks with three various types of ramblers had been developed by the team. The plan also needed some small robotic shuttles in meeting up with nearby deep-space mission vehicles in lunar orbit. One of the rover known as Prospector would be exploring the moon and locate ice-bearing areas.

A second, the Constructor would be following along behind constructing a launch pad and packing down roadways to ease movements for the third kind of rover, the Miners. This would in fact amass the ice, delivering it to the nearest storage tanks and an electrolysis processing plant which tends to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Landing Pad – Lunar Resupply Shuttles

Moreover, the Constructor would also be erecting a mooring pad wherein small near moon vehicle spacecraft called Lunar Resupply Shuttles would be arriving for the collection of fuel for delivery as lately launched spacecraft pass by the moon.

The aircrafts would utilise the moon-made fuel and have advanced guidance together with navigation systems for travel between lunar bases and their object spacecraft. With the provision for adequate fuel being produced and the aircraft delivery system is tested and dependable, their intentions are for building a gas station in space.

The aircraft would be delivering ice straight to the orbiting fuel depot after which it would be processed into duel and where the rockets heading to Mars or any other area could dock to refill. The depot would be equipped with large solar arrays powering an electrolysis module for the purpose of melting the ice and later turning the water into fuel together with huge fuel tanks for storing what is prepared.

NASA has been operational on most of the technology essential for a depot such as this comprising of docking and fuel transfer. A working depot is expected to be ready in the early 2030s in time for the first human missions to Mars.

Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point – L1

The depot needs to be placed in a stable orbit probably near the Earth and the moon to be most useful as well as effective.The Earth-moon Lagrangian Point 1 – L1 is said to be a point in space around 85% of the way from Earth to the moon wherein the force of the gravity of the Earth would match the force of the gravity of the moon pulling in the other direction.

It seems to be an ideal pit stop for a spacecraft going on its way to Mars or the external planets. The team also located a fuel-efficient system of getting spacecraft from Earth orbit to the L1 depot which needed much less launch fuel and reducing more lift energy for cargo items. Initially, the spacecraft would be launching from Earth into Low Earth Orbit with empty propellant tank and then it could be towed with its cargo from Low Earth Orbit to the L1 depot utilising solar electric force tug, which is a spacecraft largely propelled by solar-powered electric thrusters and this would triple the payload delivery to Mars.

By assisting us in escaping the gravity of the Earth as well as its necessity on the resources, a lunar gas station can be the initial move to the big leap in making humankind a space civilization.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.