Researchers have found a new way to convert methane into rocket fuel on Mars — adding crucial flexibility to future astronaut missions to the Red Planet, according to a recent blog post on the University of California, Irvine''s (UCI's) official website.
Elon Musk and other engineers at SpaceX theorized such a method while searching for ways to combine water from ice on Mars with carbon dioxide to procure enough carbon and hydrogen for methane production.
Once astronauts make it to Mars they might use this method to transform local Red Planet matter like carbon dioxide and ice into rocket fuel — primed and ready to launch humans on a return trip to Earth.
While only a "proof of concept" as of writing, the new method has succeeded in lab tests. "[L]ots of engineering and research is needed before this can be fully implemented," said University of California, Irvine, physicist Huolin Xin, in a statement. "But the results are very promising."
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