Mars-bound crewed spacecraft should launch with just enough fuel to get to filling stations near the moon, and these stations would then dispense propellant derived from lunar water-ice, according to a new study.
Such a strategy would reduce the mass of a Mars mission by up to 68 percent at launch, resulting in significant cost savings, researchers said.
Permanently shadowed craters near the moon’s poles are thought to harbor large quantities of water ice. This ice can be processed into hydrogen and oxygen molecules — the chief components of rocket fuel, which could then be used to fill up the tanks of voyaging spaceships.
Exploiting lunar resources in this way could greatly reduce the cost of spaceflight, helping open up the solar system to human exploration, moon-mining advocates say.
The new study, which was published recently in the Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets, comes to the same basic conclusion.