Asteroid Water to Power Rockets!

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The Moon’s Not the Only Place to Look for Water Mining in Space

According to a recently-released study, around a thousand hydrated asteroids could offer better mining options for space entrepreneurs than the Moon. In fact, the study suggests that over twenty-five of the asteroids could hold upwards of 2×1011 gallons of water. When you break those molecules down into their component atoms of hydrogen and oxygen, that’s a ginormous amount of rocket fuel to be had. As a matter of fact, that asteroid water figure dwarfs the amount of water on the poles of the Moon.

An asteroid researcher at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Research Laboratory, Andrew Rivkin, wrote the study. In it, he claims that “Most of the hydrated material in the near-Earth population is contained in the largest few hydrated objects.”

Mining on asteroids

Mining on asteroids instead of the moon offers several advantages. First, their nearly non-existent gravity makes landing on and taking off from asteroids a lot easier than doing so on larger bodies like the moon. Once mining techniques are perfected, the idea is to use the abundance of fuel we can make from asteroid water to refuel satellites in space, and even further human space exploration.

Satellite constellation

Satellite constellation

About the Satellites

If you know anything about satellites or low-earth orbit, then I need not explain to you that that part of space is incredibly crowded with junk. Thousands of defunct satellites currently orbit the Earth with no purpose whatsoever. They’ll continue to do so until they eventually fall back to the sky in a few years and burn up on re-entry.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? That’s Ravkin’s idea. If we could efficiently mine rocket fuel on asteroids, then we could theoretically re-fuel satellites in space, and keep fewer functional satellites in orbit for longer periods of time. Thereby eliminating a lot of the junk problem.

When Musk gets his 12,000 satellite constellation up and running, asteroid mining could become very important indeed.

Human Exploration

Like asteroids, the Moon’s lower gravity makes it easier to launch and land spacecraft. That has been part of NASA’s idea for going back. After all, getting to Mars from the Moon beats getting to Mars from Earth in nearly every metric of efficiency and long-term cost-effectiveness. Large asteroids could provide an even more efficient option, according to the report.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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