Extraction of water on the moon would open space for us. Do not believe me?
Lunar miners especially jubilant this week when scientists said they have found strong evidence for the existence of water ice on the lunar surface. There is much more ice than we thought, and now we know exactly where he is. This can greatly simplify the extraction of water in the future.
Long before this discovery, scientists have tried to find any water that might be hidden on the Moon's surface. It's a resource that will be extremely valuable for future long-term missions to the moon, because water is essential for life here on Earth. It can be processed into a lunar habitat or used for drinking or bathing. Also, it could grow plants needed to supply future lunar inhabitants.
Perhaps the biggest and most immediate application for lunar water - it is rocket fuel. Basic water component - hydrogen and oxygen - the two most important material from which to make fuel rockets. And if you make rocket fuel out of the water on the Moon it would be great to save on carrying out ambitious missions in space. At this point, the rocket leaving Earth must carry all the fuel that they need with them. But with the use of lunar ice missiles could be refueled, being already in the space, and reach more distant places for less money.
Is the water better than petroleum?
"The idea is to create a kind of supply chain, launched beyond Earth, for certain products - in particular, for water as a component of fuel - to make it much easier to navigate in space from one body to another," says Julie Brisset, researcher at the Institute of Space Florida.
Deliver something in space - is always expensive. If you want your companion escaped beyond Earth's gravity, you need a lot of fuel to orbit. In fact, most of the weight that carries the rocket during launch, it is necessary for fuel. And the deeper you go into space, the more fuel you need. More energy needed to break away from the attraction of the planet. Therefore, the mission in deep space are becoming more expensive, because it needs a big rocket and you need a lot of fuel.
But what if, instead of taking fuel in the world, you could fill the tank with fuel, which is already installed in the space? Then have a mission into deep space have become as commonplace as traveling from one city to another. "Just imagine that you had to get out of Denver, and on the way there were no refills, and you would have to carry with them gasoline right up to New York," said George Sowers, a professor of the Colorado School of Mines and the former vice-president of the United Launch Alliance. "Are you sure you do not hit it all in the car. Will have to take the trailer. " That's why the idea of lunar research so excites the mind. Water on the moon could produce, split into rocket fuel and carry either lunar or into low Earth orbit. Rockets do not need to be large to carry all the fuel with you. They just might be joined to the gas station and refuel for longer trips.
Transportation of fuel from the Moon to other places in the cosmos will be much cheaper than transporting from Earth. On the moon is one-sixth Earth's gravity, and therefore need less energy to break away from the surface. Not so long ago, Sowers has analyzed the cost of transportation fuel moon in different places in space. Delivery of lunar water into low Earth orbit, for example, is cheaper than sending it to the ground, even though our planet closer. "If you are going to use this fuel in low Earth orbit, the savings would be 20-30 percent by using lunar fuel instead of the ground", says Sowers.
The scientists fantasize about how to turn the water in the lunar rocket fuel, for several decades, since there is evidence of the suitability of the lunar poles to develop ice. In 1994, a joint study of NASA and the US military called Clementine showed that water exists in craters at the lunar poles. These places never see the light of the sun and never reach temperatures above -250 degrees Fahrenheit. Several missions to the moon since then have confirmed that the water may be in these places. In 2009, NASA dropped the LCROSS spacecraft into a crater on the south pole of the moon, to see what materials will throw punch. It has been found that the ejection was 5% water.
However, published this week in PNAS study shows that some areas of the moon can be drowned in water. Scientists from the University of Hawaii, and Brown University analyzed data collected by the Indian unit "Chandranayan-1", which went to the moon in 2008. Using a tool machine, they were able to identify the area of ice on the Moon, measuring the reflectivity of the water. They also watched these places in the infrared and found that the water has taken the form of ice rather than liquid or vapor. They not only confirmed that water ice is present on the surface of the moon, but that some areas on Earth are composed of 20-30 percent of the ice. Depending on how far away the ice beneath the surface, one could identify the place of production of components for rocket fuel.
"We do not need to get everything at once," said Phil Metzger, a planetary physicist at the University of Central Florida. "We have a few places increased concentration, to have enough water to meet all space transportation needs over the next 30 years."
The fuel depot in Low Earth Orbit opens up new possibilities for missions in space. For example, you could build a space tug - a rocket, which is located in space, refueling time and time again, and drove the satellites in the desired destination. Now satellites, which are displayed on a high orbit, spend six months to a year to ensure that slowly rise above using the on-board engines. During this time they can not do their job and do not make money. But with space tug satellites could be deployed at a low orbit using small rockets, and then use the space tug for delivery of satellites into proper orbit in just a few days. This would save money companion operators: they would not have to run a large rocket to deliver their cargo into space, and they would have more time to work with his companion.
So yes, the lunar water as fuel is cool, but the start of its production will not be easy. Firstly, it is necessary to conduct extensive exploration. Due to the PNAS study, scientists have in fact created a map showing where to find the most succulent parts of a water ice on the lunar poles. The next step will be sending landers and rovers to search for the best sites. Scientists do not know in what form ice - in the form of mud, mixed with ice or in the form of solid blocks, blended with another surface material. "We know how to design the equipment for removal. We just do not know what equipment to use, "says Metzger. One idea is to dig up the lunar soil with an excavator, which sends the material to the handler. Processor separates the ice from the soil during the heating process and divides the water into basic components using electricity. Part of the resulting fuel is then used to run the rest of the water from the moon on a vehicle, the fuel depot.
Of course, all this will be expensive. "It all boils down to the analysis of the costs," says Metzger. "Cheaper whether to launch rocket fuel from Earth, or less run the equipment in the space once and then maintain the equipment and use it to create a permanent propellant in space?". On the basis of the analysis carried out by Metzger, Brisset and Sowers, they came to the conclusion that in order to invest in mining on the Moon would take ten years before the publication of the profit. But because the lunar mining is a risky business, perhaps, venture capitalists do not want to actively participate in this matter.
That is why the team suggests that NASA should participate in the partial financing of the early developments in the field of mining. Thus, commercial investors are more likely to cooperate with reputable agency that will be able to bear part of the costs.
NASA will not provide services to investors: Space Agency suggested that every year can take up to 100 metric tons of fuel to refuel vehicles, leaving the lunar surface from the base. If all this is to run from the earth, it will take about 3, 5 billion dollars a year. Savings through the creation of a lunar mission will make fuel on the moon and Mars cheaper. "Mission to Mars would become cheaper and all that we do outside the Earth, too," said Sowers. For example, the use of fuel to refuel the lunar rockets have reduced the cost of flying to the Moon from the Earth three times, Sowers said. This is important, given that NASA is going to undertake a mission with the participation of the people to the moon again.
"For many years I said that water - oil space," said Sowers and adds: "If NASA plans to establish a permanent human settlement on the moon, the first thing to do NASA, is to build a production facility for fuel."
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