How Asteroids Can Help Us Reach Mars

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idaBy: Sherrie Chen

With technology developing rapidly, we step closer and closer to the Universe. Mars is always the one on the top of the list. And we have already search it through many ways. Yet it is still hard to send people to Mars and bring them back safely.

The reason for that is mainly due to the long distance in between Mars and Earth, which is about 140 million miles away. This is 620 times more than the distance between Earth and Moon. The mission to Mars would at least take 150 days and there is no spacecraft can carry the huge amount of supply and fuel .

However, here is a flame of hope now in front of the scientists. They are relying on asteroid mining, which is possible to be the place for refueling.

Asteroids are the rocky fragments circling the sun, made up by water, oxygen, metals and other elements that could be used to produce fuel and life to support systems in space. There are  thousands of asteroids in space with variety of sizes.

Unfortunately, extracting these resources can be a huge task. Not only it would be costly, but it also would be extremely hard. Still, there are several private companies that think they are up to the task.

According to Chris Lewicki, the former NASA Mars mission manager, his company can do it in five to ten years. Lewicki is chief engineer at Planetary Resources—a Seattle-area company that wants to extract water, platinum and other resources from near-Earth asteroids.

Another problem is whether space mining is legal. The U.N.’s 1966 treaty on outer space, signed by the United States and more than 100 other countries, states that nations can’t own territory in space. But the attraction of space mining is huge. Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson estimates a resource-rich asteroid sizes 80-meter  could contain more than $100 billion worth of materials for use in space and on Earth.

Now asteroids are clearly the hot topic on the plate. Jim Green, director of NASA planetary science, called NASA’s planned asteroid mission “a stepping stone to Mars.”

NASA has identified more than 12,000 near-Earth asteroids and is still searching for the one to target. The actual space mining is still years away. But at least we figure out a direction to reach the goal.

 

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