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Thread: Water on the Moon = Rocket fuel on the Moon?

  1. #1 Water on the Moon = Rocket fuel on the Moon? 
    Time Lord
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    Mar 2007
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    I thought I'd share this, so maybe later we can discuss its implications:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...04440707682179

    This is a documentary that aired on the Discovery or Science channel (I forget which, but it's channel 193 on Dish Network). Start watching from the 42nd minute.

    This engineer at Lockheed Martin, Larry Clark, has apparently found a way to process water out of ordinary moon rock (technically he's using imitation moon rock, but it should still work).


    So I'm thinking that if this is true, doesn't that basically mean the surface of the Moon has an unlimited supply of rocket fuel on it? All you have to do is use electrolysis on the water to split it into hydrogen and oxygen, and you can burn it as rocket fuel.

    So why don't we send an unmanned probe to the Moon, have it process itself some rocket fuel, then go back into low Earth orbit and pick up supplies from a space shuttle, bring them back to the Moon, refuel.... return to low Earth orbit..... etc.?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Sophomore Cuntinuum's Avatar
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    Or instead of going back and fourth like that just make a stationary processing plant on the moon.


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  4. #3 Re: Water on the Moon = Rocket fuel on the Moon? 
    Forum Professor
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    Actually, you could do this even if there wasn’t water on the moon. Dirt on the moon is full of aluminum oxide. You can turn that into metallic alminum and liquid oxygen, which make reasonably good rocket fuels. They aren’t nearly as efficient as hydrogen/oxygen fuel, but since the moon has very low gravity and you can basically get unlimited amounts of them for free on the moon, it doesn’t matter too much.

    You can also just use pure oxygen as a fuel for a nuclear-thermal rocket engine, which we already know how to build. Or if you’re too chicken to use nuclear-thermal rockets (which we currently are), you can just bring the hydrogen up from earth with you and combine it with oxygen from the moon. Since hydrogen/oxygen rocket fuel is about 89% oxygen by mass, just bringing up the hydrogen and having the oxygen already waiting for you in space means you only have to carry up 11% of your total fuel.

    And yes, using the moon as a big fuel depot is probably the only really good reason I’ve ever heard for setting up a colony on the moon (other than “because it would be cool,” of course). Any serious scheme for exploring/colonizing/mineing/whatever the solar system would probably involve a shuttle that takes people/supplies into low earth orbit, where they transfer to a dedicated interplanetary ship that just travels back and forth between planets/moons. The interplanetary ship is going to need a lot of fuel, and the best place to get that fuel would probably be the moon.
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  5. #4  
    Time Lord
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    The metallic aluminum option might be a lot better, then, because I've been given to understand that hydrogen has a tendency to leak out of the tanks that hold it, especially if you're compressing it to save space.
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