Inside the Lab That’s Turning Moon Water Into Rocket Fuel
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Inside the Lab That’s Turning Moon Water Into Rocket Fuel

January 28, 2020

Line her up. Seems about right. You guys good to go? Alright, shields up. To be a space miner, there are a couple things
you might need: the sun, some lunar soil, and a pretty powerful mirror. We’re trying to get the perfect angle with
the fresnel lens in order to focus the light down. We’re getting 300 suns worth of energy at
that very small spot and that’s what’s allowing us to melt this regolith. There we go. Yeah, we’re melting now. There we go, it’s cooking. The eventual goal is to take the water from
the lunar poles and turn that directly into rocket fuel. But the goal in between then is going to be
this. We’re going to take moon dust, moon rocks
that have no water in them but do have oxygen in them, and split the oxygen from everything
else that’s inside the moon dust, pull the oxygen out, and use that with hydrogen that’s
brought from Earth, to make rocket fuel. So that’s going to allow us to bootstrap
into getting to the rest of the solar system, building up bigger bases, supplying oxygen
for the colonists, as well as the rockets. There has never been energy and commitment
like there is now for living off the land. Mining for resources on the moon is no longer
the subject of science fiction and artistic renditions. It’s becoming a central focus for the space
industry today. And a key technique that’ll help make this
whole vision possible is of course, hidden in an acronym. We talk a lot about in situ resource utilization
or ISRU. So what that means is taking the resources
or the building blocks that are already in space and using them for our own needs so
that you don’t need to launch it from Earth. The exciting thing about space resources,
is that they’re not a destination. It will give us the knowledge that we need
to go further. The roadmap to a future propellant depot starts
with testing out robotic sampling and drilling systems. And that’s where Honeybee Robotics comes
in. They’re a team of space engineers who are
just as busy as their company name would lead you to believe. We have at least 50 projects going on at any
given time. Honeybee’s technology is very transferable
to different types of missions, mostly because we work really hard to make drills and sampling
systems that can survive just about any space environment. Coming up in the 2020s, two of their instruments
will fly on commercial lunar landers to demonstrate early stage ISRU techniques. PlanetVac is one of our prides and joy. It’s basically a reverse vacuum. You blow to agitate the regolith. And that creates a pressure difference between
the foot and the collection chamber on the lander. So that creates a flow of material. And then we have another little blower to
make sure it goes in the right direction. It’s so lightweight that it can really attach
just about anywhere. And it has what looks like a little foot that
hangs off the side. It’s a great addition to any spacecraft. And this one LISTER, will measure thermal
conductivity on the Moon. Both of these instruments, along with various
other payloads from universities and companies tapped by NASA, will give scientists foundational
data about the Moon’s terrain before we start mining for water. And roving over at the Colorado School of
Mines is another project that wants to go lunar prospecting. We are currently in the Earth Mechanics Institute
at the Colorado School of Mines. They’ve been studying how to drill, prospect,
excavate and use resources for over a hundred years. This is where we test out MAAP. His suspension, his drive train, LIDAR, cameras. And it allows us to quickly iterate on our
design. Onboard MAAP, there is a near infrared spectrometer
and a scanning mass spectrometer and you have a 10 centimeter drill. Plus, a video game controller to steer MAAP
through the turns on the testbed. We’re starting to see a shift in the industry
from totally human controlled robotics to autonomous missions. The future of MAAP is to have swarms of prospectors
on the lunar surface looking for resources of interest. It’s not sustainable to have 60 people sitting
in a room directing one robot. So what we’re trying to do is redirect that
focus. So, that one person directs a team of robots. Before we build a refueling station on the
moon, we need these robot prospectors to suss out the best mining sites for us first. And once we know what’s there and where
to dig, then we can take on the next challenge. In order to extract the resource, you first
have to focus on what it is you want to extract. And actually there’s two camps. Some people say, let’s go after the water. Why? Because water will give you immediately hydrogen
and oxygen, you’ve got your propellant. Some say, well, it’s hard to get to those
permanently shadowed regions on the poles. Why not get the oxygen? It’s 80-83% of the propellant that you need. And that is what Hunter Williams is working
on at Honeybee Robotics. This is what it’s going to look like extracting
oxygen from a lunar sample. So we’d have a small reactor, that’s that
metal part on the inside. We’d have some kind of element to heat up
a spot in that reactor. So the first technology we’ll probably use
is concentrated solar. You take the sunlight and you squeeze it down
to the part right in the middle there, and then once the melt pool gets going, once it
turns into lava, then we turn on those two electrodes that are inside the reactor and
it starts pulling apart the metals from the oxygen. So we’d have some kind of loose seal around
the outside, and we’d be keeping a more or less low pressure and slowly drawing the
oxygen out of the system. The biggest issue in the past with space resources
is that it’s been too risky but what we’re doing here is, we’re lowering the risk of
space missions by providing the astronauts with something they can use there. In case of emergency, there’s your oxygen. In case you need to get off the moon really
quickly and there’s no resupply vessel coming, you’re fine, you’ve got a cache of oxygen
right here. This will be the first type of technology
that’s going to be used on the moon to really live off the land. So we start here, and we move on later to
collecting ice and use that to get to the rest of the solar system. Depending on what the robot prospectors discover
when they hunt for ice water on the Moon, experts are looking into two different techniques
to extract it. The one we think would be highly successful
is what we call the planetary volatile extractor. We drill down and then heat the core downhole. So there’s embedded heaters on the inside
of the coring string. And that forces the volatiles to sublimate
and go up the middle of the drill string. And you could think about having an array
of these PVExs and then going on a rover over like a football field and just going and collecting
large amounts of water. Over at the Colorado School of Mines, Angel
and his team are exploring a thermal mining technique to capture lunar ice. The water may be ice as hard as a rock. I may have to start drilling using a lot of
excavators, that becomes hard. Solar power can be collected and beamed down
and the water can be transformed from ice to vapor. It’s called sublimation. So, if I can do that, now I have this gas,
it goes out and I can trap it with a cold surface, and it becomes ice again. This is a totally new technique that we don’t
use on Earth. This is where you start thinking in very innovative
ways in a different environment. And then once you’ve got that water ice
extracted from the Moon’s poles… We’re going to gather it up, and then we’re
going to put some electricity to it. So just as simple as you can see right here,
I am splitting hydrogen and oxygen in this water. That’s how simple electrolysis is. If now a rocket lands, and you have a line
for hydrogen and a line for oxygen, you refuel the rocket and then you ignite them, and then
you have a powerful rocket going up which products are water. What excites me the most about the future
of space resources is the fact that it enables a sustainable presence in space. And what that means is truly having an outpost
on the moon that people work and live. And none of that is possible without the use
of space resources. It’s an entirely new zeitgeist, it’s a
totally new way of looking at space then what we’ve been doing in the past I don’t know
five decades. It has been so challenging that it pushes
us to develop technologies that we never thought we were going to use and that’s what the space
program did. It pushed our edge on every single engineering
discipline. Things have gone from being entirely theoretical
from a group of old guys who were not getting listened to saying this is possible, we can
really live off the land. We’ve gone from those guys being seen as
fringe elements to being listened to. Companies as big as SpaceX and Blue Origin
and as small as Lunar Outpost are really trying to build up the technology to make this possible. It’s like sailing a ship across the world. We have to sail out there. We have to just explore and draw ourselves
a whole new map. My favorite example of like space redneck
engineering is the invention of the microwave oven. Originally, they were doing all of this very
secret, very big brained radar testing in I think it was WWII, but…one of the technicians
who was setting up the radar range was working and he had a chocolate bar in his pocket and
it started melting due to the radar going off and he thought to himself, hey, I can
take this technology that we’re using for space stuff and cook my hot pockets with it. So, it’s very similar to what we’re doing
here. Because we’re taking what used to be very
big technology in the 1880s of electrolysis and we’re taking the lenses from a lighthouse
and turning them sideways, and focusing light down rather than focusing light outwards to
melt the dirt, combining these two processes and turning it into a new space technology.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Haven't watched the video but the title annoyed me…why not make the moon water into vehicle fuel instead of gasoline โ˜น๏ธ less pollution

  2. 5:00 It might be harder to get to the lunar poles, but going after the water surely seems a no-brainer.
    Because if you don't, another country gearing itself up to be big in space will.

  3. So what happens when you change shape of moon and start affecting our tides and other things you have no idea the consequences of… just harvest the moon for fuel.. lol isnt that basically what we are doing here for oil!

  4. From where did they get rare lunar soil on earth ๐Ÿ™‚… Sorry if im missing something… You can call me dumb!

  5. Every time Maren opens her mouth, her atoms transmit the most beautiful fashion, it is very important to motivate and sell.

  6. There is no rain on the moon obviously…you drain those small amount of water from the moon youre techically destroying our moon you fuckn idiot scientist..destroying the moon is destroying the earth…enough of your stupidity and arrogance..mine your asses…

  7. Since we all know that weโ€™ve never been to the moon, and arenโ€™t going there anytime soon, Where would moon water comes from?

  8. I get the economy of taking light hydrogen to the moon and getting the heavy oxygen from the metal oxides in the soil using energy from the sun. I'm not sure I understand the economy of getting water from lunar ice then turning that into oxygen and hydrogen. The energy that results from using those gasses as rocket fuel will be identical to the electrical energy needed to do the electrolysis. Right? Perhaps setting up a large solar panel to provide all that electrical energy is the answer to this puzzle?

  9. It's like the rich curropt and those that serve them are bleeding the earth dry and trying to figure out ways they can ensure their rich bloodline by living on mars after they drive earth and all life on it to extinction. Because their giant city sized underground bunkers aren't quite enough for the level of destruction they've sowed.

  10. They wanna make another planet/moon habitable becuase they know the earth isnโ€™t gonna be able to handle the abuse and ignorance to obvious damage that has been caused to the earth…..

  11. So we messed up our planet and now weโ€™re going to mine on the moon… Itโ€™s nice to see that we learn from our mistakes ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ

  12. I still think slingshotting through the solar system is the way to go but hopefully this lets us build them cost effective on the moon instead of on fat -gravity heavy earth ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Lol water is everywhere now ,,,,,what elis are they not telling us, like c.i.a. document story of adam and eve earth catastrophe

  14. Like your content. However, most of your latest vids's moderator voices are sounding very dull like you used a bad microphone or put a low-pass filter on it. Some voices are clear, other are not. That is a bit distracting from the content – which is great.

  15. Hi Seekers! Thanks for watching, we've seen some concerns raised about the possibility of over-mining the Moon, but the good news is this would be pretty difficult (not to mention take many millions of years). According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, if 1 metric ton was removed from the Moon each day, it would take roughly 220 million years to deplete just 1% of the Moon's mass. To find out more about moon mining (and its possible impacts) check out this JPL infographic:

  16. Lol "Mirror" let's redirect the sunlight back at itself but 300 times stronger!
    That's for the niggas you gave skin cancer to!

  17. I've got an idea. We'll go to the moon and destroy its water by splitting it into hydrogen and oxygen. It's the perfect plan!

  18. so – an outpost on the moon
    suggests a steady rate of consumption
    of space resources

    or moon rocks – moon ice –

    or harvesting energy – from the moon.

    If we are harvesting energy from the moon,
    then we are harvesting mass from the moon?

    Has anyone examined how that may impact
    the earth's orbit over time?


  19. Maren makes me feel so heterosexual, but i haven't had bad sexuals thoughts with her, it is much more profound, or platonic feel.

  20. Really ! Just mine the moon till its gone ! do you people realize what would happen to us ? We are already destroying one rock.

  21. Say my question very smart people why not use heavy helium-3 that is scattered all over the lunar surface for a power source oh I get it this is for the dummies that with the checks

  22. Lunar soil? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ moon dust? ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ yea sure….๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ†

  23. This is stupid, Removing mass from the moon will only accelerate the moons decaying orbit away from the earth. Making earth less viable as a planet faster!

  24. How about we fix our mistakes on this planet first ?
    Itโ€™s a ridiculous idea to move to another planet with an atmosphere different to ours .

  25. Should have been working on this stuff in the 70โ€™s and 80โ€™s. No we didnโ€™t have computers like today, but we did have brains. No we didnโ€™t know about the HE3 or water, but we knew something had to be there and if we wanted the rest of the solar system we needed the moon.

  26. Please tell us something about xenobots. They are the artificial organism that are made by human, using supercomputers stimulation.

  27. The chocolate bar he mentions was actually sitting on top of a machinist lathe. I remember the story being told by the man that was working with him in our machinists class.

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