Space: Water from asteroid should be rocket fuel

In the future, the moon will become a stopover for expeditions into the solar system. The idea: Lunar colonists dig up water ice and use it as fuel for the spacecraft, which are easier to get off the moon than from the earth. However, a new study concludes that other celestial bodies are better candidates for fuel than the Moon.

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Around the earth there are about 1,000 near-Earth asteroids on which there are water resources. Most of them are small. But just over 25 are big enough that water occurs in a significant amount. According to researchers around Andrew Rivkin of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Research Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, they contain more water than the polar regions of the Moon.

In the future, satellites could be supplied with fuel via the water of asteroids. This could extend their service life and help prevent space junk. "It's easier to get fuel from an asteroid into a geosynchronous orbit than from Earth"Rivkin said the space news specialist, "If such a supply chain could be set up, it could make mining on asteroids very profitable."

The asteroids have advantages, the researchers say: First, they are closer to the earth than the moon. For another, they are smaller than this. So it takes less fuel to fly away from there. Also landing is easier and requires less fuel. "Even asteroids farther from Earth than the Moon can be reached with less fuel than the Moon's surface."Rivkin said.

Companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries have long been planning to mine raw materials on asteroids, including water, but also precious metals.