Would astronauts live without fuel on the moon?

Written by By Dr. Josh Richards, CNN A new lunar rocket to fly unmanned and powered solely by sunlight will launch for the first time in February next year, according to NASA. The agency’s…

Would astronauts live without fuel on the moon?

Written by By Dr. Josh Richards, CNN

A new lunar rocket to fly unmanned and powered solely by sunlight will launch for the first time in February next year, according to NASA.

The agency’s Centaur is a reusable heavy-lift rocket capable of sending astronauts on a lunar flyby of the moon. It will be 50 feet (15 meters) tall and has a diameter of 16 feet (4.5 meters).

Even more exciting, the Centaur is powered by a rechargeable hydrogen-inflated gas launcher which stores fuel in thin air molecules. This could mean that astronauts never have to burn fuel, not only advancing the development of rocket propulsion technology, but saving a tremendous amount of pollution.

It’s all part of NASA’s ambitious goal of creating a colony on the moon by the 2030s. Here, a look at how the Centaur could improve astronauts’ lives.

NASA’s Inflatable Propulsion Systems Concept Work Package Image: NASA

Lunar footprints

Engineers are also aiming to develop “an inflatable lunar landing module” for expeditions where the days between landing and docking are long.

To reach the moon, astronauts will need to perform extensive service checks on the spacecraft. This work has usually required the use of chemical fueling, which, in today’s climate, generates significant amounts of toxic waste. The proposed detachable Lunar Cargo Storage Module will ferry supplies from the planet to the lunar surface.

A composite of the Centaur rocket, reusable container and inflatable Lunar Cargo Storage Module. Credit: NASA

The use of ultra-small spacecraft could help with minimizing pollution, therefore reducing the footprint of a manned mission to the moon.

Cosmic rays from comets, leftover hot rocks from our own solar system and even meteorites are some of the elements thought to be in greater abundance in the outer reaches of the solar system. An inflatable capsule might be able to sail through such waste streams and reach the moon’s surface with little problem.

The reloablity of the refuelling after a mission to the moon would also make it easier to pass through dangerous areas during construction missions.

Cable tea party

Another possibility would be to use the Centaur for flight experiments aboard the spacecraft itself, which could be in the form of a biro balloon or a cubesat equipped with a special antenna.

Solo lightsabre fights will be a reality if scientists have their way

The Centaur would also be well suited to capturing and reusing, with solar power, other scientists’ experiments while flying through near Earth space, or even for transporting technical equipment — such as a powerful laser laser.

A CubeSat carried inside a Centaur. Credit: NASA

If these secondary experiments were to be teleported via the space agency’s Internet, their data and mass could be used to help humans explore beyond Earth, while NASA scientists kept an eye on their experiments.

Leave a Comment