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To Get to Mars, Mankind Should Mine Rocket Fuel on the Moon

May 16, 2017 05:48 AM EDT
NASA | Tour of the Moon
Students presented a paper exploring the possibility of mining rocket fuel from the moon. It will lighten the payload of rockets who currently need to bring with it all the fuel it needs to finish its mission and to fly back again.
(Photo : NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center/YouTube Screenshot)

Both private companies and national agencies are already considering the possibility of harvesting ample resources found on the moon. Some say that in order to reach Mars, engineers must first develop a way to mine rocket fuel from the moon.

A recent paper discussing the efforts to mine rocket fuel from the lunar surface was published. The researchers say that in order to get to Mars, systems to help mining fuels from the moon should be developed. The study was published in time for NASA's announcement that a yearlong mission to the moon may be conducted to prepare for the 2030 Journey to Mars.

Students from all over the world worked on the different papers to explore the possibility of mining fuels from the moon in order to get to Mars. According to LiveScience, Gary Li, Danielle DeLatte, Jerome Gilleron, Samuel Wald and Therese Jones from the University of California, University of Tokyo, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Pardee RAND Graduate School worked on the paper that was recently published in The Conversation.

Reports say that even private contractor, United Launch Alliance (ULA) with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are planning to build a lunar fuelling station on the moon in the next 30 years. NASA has long considered the moon as the gateway to deep space. In addition to ULA, SpaceX and Blue Origin, the commercial space flight companies of billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos respectively are also planning on sending humans to the moon.

The moon mining study was conducted as part of the Caltech Space Challenge 2017. Entries include information about what lunar launch and supply system should look like. Mining fuels from the moon may lighten the payload of rockets, which, as of today, carries with it fuel that it needs to complete its mission and to travel back again.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite had already identified substantial water ice in shadowed areas of the moon, according to a report. This means, there are potential sites from mining on the surface of the moon.

But the permanently shadowed areas are more difficult to mine. In order to harvest fuel from the lunar surface, technologies that will allow roving vehicles that do not require sunlight should be developed.

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