Humans will not be able to go to Mars until they find the way to use lighter and cheaper resources, and colonizing the Moon could be a good start. Since water is so heavy to get off the Earth, it is far better if astronauts manage to find it somewhere in order to drink it, use it as fuel and to shield their habitat from radiation.

Edgar Mitchell, one of just 12 human beings who walked on the moon. Credit: CNN

“The current belief that we are on our way to Mars is simply mistaken. It’s just a bridge too far. If we are going to get to Mars we need to use smaller incremental steps.” said Dr. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston.

It has been recently discovered that there are large amounts of water on the Moon and such an important resource could be used to fuel space travel at much lower costs. Water ice from the lunar poles and asteroids could provide low-cost fuel for probes, which can be used to search for vital resources across the surface of the Moon and eventually allow space travel.

Astronauts going on a mission to Mars could be able to launch from Earth with up to 68 percent less mass if they collect fuel from a Moon base on the way, according to calculations by Olivier de Weck, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT.

Steam-powered spacecraft

A spacecraft would need just a small push to get going because of the low gravity of the lunar surface. Scientists would use solar panels to heat the water, and then vent it through a nozzle. The steam in a vacuum could give a few minutes of thrust, allowing a Mars lander weighing 80Kg to move up to 30Km on a single tank.

On Earth, the build-up of pressure drives pistons and cylinders connected to a machine, but in this case, the thrust would be coming from steam being ejected into space and the craft would be propelled forward.

Scientists planning to colonize the Moon

Dr. Phil Metzger, of the University of South Florida, is part of Nasa’s ‘Swamp Works’ team, which is in charge of working out to make the most of the key resources available on the Moon. He told at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London that humans needed to stop relying on terrestrial resources.

According to a report by The Telegraph, he said that he and his colleagues want to use robots not only to explore the surface but also to work on water prospection. Dr. Metzger believes that a very simple system could be set by using asteroids for solar thermal steam propulsion directly, allowing small spacecraft to refuel in space.

Dr. Metzger explained that operating machinery on the Moon can be easy given that there is a communication delay with Earth of only three seconds. If scientists set up this system of a base on the Moon, people will be able to even live there permanently, he suggested.

“We will soon be going from a species that inhabits just one planet to one that inhabits a solar system. We need to start thinking outside the sphere”, Dr. Metzger stated.

Source: The Telegraph