Finnish Meteorological Institute – Researchers, have claimed that the new technology can utilize the water mined from the asteroids in the Mars orbit as fuel making two-way unmanned trips possible. The new technology is termed as the electric solar wind sail that can make transportation within the entire solar system without any propellant possible. In other terms, the new technology has opened doors to the economical asteroid mining.
Invented in 2006 in Finland, the E-sail uses long and charged tethers for converting the unstable natural solar wind momentum into required spacecraft thrust. A researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Pekka Janhunen, has said that with the E-sail technology, the process of mining the asteroids will become more feasible. These asteroids will be providing free logistics essentials in the solar system outside of the magnetosphere of the Earth.
Mining the Water from Asteroids
A suitable asteroid carrying water is to be found first to apply this technology. Once such an asteroid is discovered, a mining unit will be sent to the location by the E-sail to mine water from the soil of the asteroid. Now, the process of water mining will start. For this, the material in the asteroid is heated, and the evolving vapors of water are condensed in a cool container.
Once the condenser is full, it separates from the unit and is transported to the Mars or Earth’s orbit with an E-sail. Here it is broken into oxygen and hydrogen and liquefied. The oxygen-hydrogen fuel, thus prepared can be used for filling the manned vehicle tanks that travel between the Earth and the Mars. The exponential rocket equation reduces the launch mass dramatically.
The launch mass can be reduced further by using the asteroid-mined water as a radiation shield of the manned module. The research is now in the juvenile stage, but even then, no one can deny that coming years will certainly prove it’s utility.