NASA Plans to Convert Martian Soil Into Rocket Fuel

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Humanity is once again looking at the possibilities of colonizing space as engineers are hard at work and powerful rockets like the NASA Space Launch System and SpaceX BFR are nearing the last stages of development. The new rockets are capable of carrying impressive amounts of cargo but they also need additional fuel in order to return towards Earth. The colonization process would be easier if future colonists were able to manufacture rocket fuel directly on the Red Planet.

The agency plans to use Martian soil in order to generate the fuel needed for safe returns. According to NASA team leader Kurt Leucht for every kilogram of cargo the rocket will need 225 kilograms of fuel. A mission on such a level would require a generous cargo as water, food and equipment along with the fuel needed already demand a huge amount of fuel, including the fuel needed for the rocket to fly back to Earth.

In order to mitigate increased cost NASA aims to use in situ resource utilization for a variety of materials that are needed for the mission. One of the methods that could allow colonists to make their own fuel requires water. While frozen water is scarce on the source, there are reach subterranean deposits that can be used and the soil itself contains a high quantity of frozen water in some areas.

NASA is already developing robots that will do the heavy physical work in order to prevent exhaustion and other possible threats. One of the prototypes, the Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) is able to dig up and carry material around. The robot is optimized for low-gravity environments in order to prevent the balance problems that could appear from using conventional robots.

Collecting the dust is merely the beginning as NASA will build a chemical refinery that will extract the water and split is molecules into oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers are now working on improving the equipment and finding suitable landing zones.


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