OCT 16, 2015 7:22 AM PDT

MIT Team Suggests: Launch Light From Earth To Mars, Pick Up Your Fuel Along The Way

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
Going to Mars is something we Earthlings have wanted to do for centuries. By some estimates, we’ve had the necessary technology since the Apollo era. In fact, NASA planners intended to build on the Apollo system, making it bigger and more powerful, in order to reach the red planet. So why didn’t we go? Why don’t we have a Martian colony today? Cost. Even with all of our current space technology, a mission to Mars would be horrendously expensive. Interestingly, the most expensive part of space travel, by far, is getting things off of the Earth, into orbit. The going rate is about 10,000 dollars per pound. The heaviest part of all space craft is fuel. And the further you want to go, the less efficient rockets become, because more distance means more fuel. But getting that fuel into orbit requires more fuel. See the problem? A team from MIT has been looking into this problem, and they may have come up with a solution. What if you could find a way to not have to carry all of that fuel off the Earth, into orbit. What if you could pick up the fuel you needed for a trip to Mars along the way?


The MIT team proposes that missions to Mars and other deep space destinations could launch from Earth with just enough fuel to get into orbit. This would allow for a 68 percent reduction in launch weight, and therefore massively cut the cost of a mission.

Where, you may be wondering, could the ship launched from Earth get enough fuel to make it into deep space? Over the past few years, lunar probes and satellites have discovered that some craters on the Moon contain water ice. This ice can be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen, the two elements needed for rocket fuel. Additionally, recent NASA research has shown that  lunar regolith, that powdery soil on the moon, is comprised largely of elements that can also be processed into rocket fuel. NASA is currently developing technologies that would allow them to mine both of these resources and transform them into rocket fuel robotically. Taking all of these elements into consideration, the MIT team proposes that, once in Earth orbit, space ships could rendezvous with robotic tanker ships, that had been filled with fuel on the moon and then launched toward their rendezvous with the ship from Earth.



Olivier de Weck, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and of engineering systems at MIT, says, "This is completely against the established common wisdom of how to go to Mars, which is a straight shot … (in which you) carry everything with you. …The idea of taking a detour into the lunar system (is) very unintuitive. But from an optimal network and big-picture view, this could be very affordable in the long term, because you don't have to ship everything from Earth.”


Source: Phys.org
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
JUL 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Hubble Spots Evidence of Water on Jupiter's Moon
JUL 29, 2021
Hubble Spots Evidence of Water on Jupiter's Moon
Scientists have spotted evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. The corresponding stu ...
AUG 26, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
The Most Detailed Map of the Andromeda Galaxy taken by Radio Telescope
AUG 26, 2021
The Most Detailed Map of the Andromeda Galaxy taken by Radio Telescope
Sitting at 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy is the closest galaxy to our own Milky Way. Since it&rsquo ...
SEP 16, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Under Pressure: Physicists Discover New Property of Black Holes and Quantum Gravity
SEP 16, 2021
Under Pressure: Physicists Discover New Property of Black Holes and Quantum Gravity
Two physicists at the University of Sussex have made a startling discovery about black holes: they exert a pressure on t ...
NOV 19, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Space Taco: Nasa grows Hatch Green Chiles in space
NOV 19, 2021
Space Taco: Nasa grows Hatch Green Chiles in space
Now, incredibly, the famous pepper has been grown aboard the International Space Station!!!
DEC 26, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Pluto's landscape formation mysteries revealed
DEC 26, 2021
Pluto's landscape formation mysteries revealed
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made a historic fly-by of the dwarf-planet Pluto on July 14, 2015, but even after s ...
JAN 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
JAN 06, 2022
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Successfully Deploys Secondary Mirror
As it hurdles through space, NASA’s Webb telescope has successfully completed another step in its multi-month boot ...
Loading Comments...