Future Astronauts Could Fuel Their Return Trip Using Mars’ Atmosphere

By: | January 12th, 2021

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Mars mission is full of challenges. One of the major challenges is how will future astronauts power the spaceship that brings them back to Earth?

Now a new study suggests, they could make rocket fuel from the methane that’s already on Mars.

The idea is to create methane-based rocket fuel. This method was previously theorized by Elon Musk and his team at SpaceX. Scientists considered that by using atmospheric carbon dioxide and water from ice on and beneath the Martian surface, methane can be produced. 

The ISS (International Space Station) is already using a similar two-step process for converting water into breathable oxygen. But in this new study, researchers introduce a zinc catalyst that bypasses the water synthesis process. This way researchers bring down the process to one step. 

That helped in making a fully-developed fuel generating system more compact, which is easier to transport to Mars and elsewhere.

Huolin Xin, who led this research, said, “The zinc is fundamentally a great catalyst,” 

“It has time, selectivity, and portability — a big plus for space travel.”

So far, this work is only been tested in labs, not in real-world conditions. However, in the future, it could probably make long-distance space travel considerably more realistic.

Xin said, “lots of engineering and research is needed before this can be fully implemented,” “But the results are very promising.”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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