Water mining on the Moon and Mars has long been a NASA goal to support human settlements and future space travel. The recent finding of tiny quantities of water throughout most of the lunar surface has accelerated that goal, with NASA investigating several potential technologies.
The space agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) findings are the most conclusive yet ---that liquid water occasionally flows on present-day Mars. Lunar water may be more accessible than previously assumed, according to observations of the Moon. The new information is especially intriguing for NASA, which intends to use the Moon's resources, particularly water ice trapped in the soil, to aid future astronauts living and working on the lunar surface.
It's not the first time water has been discovered on Mars (per Science Times) or the Moon (per The Verge). However, the only water we've been able to locate and verify thus far is quite difficult to get.
Virginia Tech Team Thinks They Can Help NASA Get Water on Moon and Mars
During the "Moon to Mars Ice and Prospecting Challenge," about ten student teams from institutions throughout the country - including one from Virginia Tech - convened Friday at the Hampton Road Convention Center to showcase prototypes of remote-controlled drilling equipment. The tournament lasted three days, beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday.
Daily Press said the students' prototypes sought to extract and harvest as much water as possible from ice buried beneath simulated lunar and Martian environments - soil, clay, and sand - packed into huge blue tubs. It's a technology that NASA needs. Rather than sending tons of water into space with the astronauts, extracting the water there is easier and saves millions.
Water extraction has to be done mostly autonomously, according to Shlok Agarwal, a 21-year-old senior who leads the Virginia Tech team. If NASA refuses to send astronauts, Agarwal claims that he can manage everything on the rig from Earth.
NASA Says Missions to Outer Space Require a Lot of Mass
Yahoo! News said the water is required for life support and the production of rocket fuel to return people to Earth.
According to NASA Langley Research Center aerospace engineer Chris Jones, missions to outer space require a lot of mass. Reducing that is a top priority, he said. It will help lighten their shipping load if astronauts can make their fuel or life support goods, such as water and oxygen.
Jones estimates that it would take more than 20 times the weight of launching from Earth to get a pound to the surface of Mars. Jones claims that saving a few thousand pounds of fuel on Mars could easily translate into tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds leaving Earth.
Within the last 15 years, according to NASA's assistant director for science and exploration, Rick Davis, scientists discovered evidence of water on the Moon and Mars.
He said water deposits are mixed in the soil on the Moon, most likely from comets impacting the Moon's surface. Furthermore, the Moon has craters that receive no sunlight and thus remain extremely cold. If water is deposited in a crater, it will remain there indefinitely.
However, most machines don't work well on the Moon due to extreme weather conditions.
Hundreds of millions of years ago. According to Davis, Mars had oceans and glaciers similar to those found on Earth. However, as the red planet's atmosphere deteriorated and it became more frozen, some oceans evaporated. Some are still present, but NASA discovered something unexpected when it sent satellite orbiters to look for underground lakes.
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