If it wants to search out space, it's fuel. It's big. It's tough. And the probes have to carry their own care. When they run out, they turn off the lights. What if each asteroid would pose potentially pit stop?
The issue of powering vessels through space will not disappear.
Solar cells can provide all the electricity needed by a space probe. However, if it wants to move, it must also have a propellant.
We have very efficient ion motors. But they also have to carry stocks of expensive xenon gas.
We are experimenting with light sails. But we are a way to effectively tackle the sun's winds.
NASA took a step back.
Back in time of steam.
The spacecraft spacecraft sprayed by the solar system has taught us one thing: water is surprisingly common.
At least in the form of ice.
Wherever a deep crater is, or appears, it is probably a frozen deposit.
And this represents an exciting opportunity: quick-access fuel.
The new prototype was funded by NASA to test the concept of a spacecraft that can be restored.
University of Central Florida and Honeybee Robotics named it an experiment. The world is not enough (WINE).
It is intended for flying to asteroid, research, and at the same time for my waters.
When it completes, it can move to its next goal.
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This is something our dreaming explorers have been dreaming about for decades.
And technology has just made its first step.
On December 31, a prototype "funnel" with a microwave oven was placed in a vacuum tank.
In the reservoir was a layer of simulated asteroid earth.
The spacecraft then collected its own fuel. Then it "took off".
"Wine has successfully digged the earth, gave rocket propulsion and triggered a steam turbine that was extracted from the simulator," says UCF planetary scientist Phil Metzger. "This technology could potentially be used to jump to the Moon, Ceres, Europe, Titan, Pluto, half of Merkur, asteroids – wherever there is water and low enough gravity."
It does not need any land either. He can land on a block of ice.
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The Spider Water Extraction System's experimental system can "bore into solid ice and mineral composites that can be as solid as concrete," says Honeybee.
"The use of local resources means that missions can begin with smaller stocks or extend their missions far beyond what is possible with on-board materials."
BACK IN THE FUTURE
The idea is not a magic sphere.
Water is not an extremely efficient drive.
So it is only useful for spacecraft that reflects between low gravity.
However, this does not differ from modern probes driven by ion engines, such as Dawn, which recently studied the dwarf planet Vesta and Ceres. Last year, it ran out of its precious propellant.
Water is immediately available. And cheap.
It offers the same type of low thrust, a durable drive as the Dawn ion engine. Only with an optional recharge option.
"WINE has been designed in such a way that it will never run out of fuels, so research will be cheaper," says Metzger. "It also allows us to research in a shorter period of time, because we do not have to wait for years to come when new space vessels travel each time from Earth."
Solar solar power plants can use solar energy to heat ice in steam or small hot radioactive decay units. Or both.
This means that such vessels may potentially explore the external attainments of the solar system, such as Pluto.
"Spacecraft like wines can change the way space exploration," says Kris Zacny, vice president of Honeybee Robotocs.