In-Situ Resource Utilization, Dust to Thrust
Analog missions allow NASA to research, develop and test operational concepts and systems in challenging Earth environments similar to those that astronauts may face during missions to near earth objects, the moon or Mars.
Challenge: As NASA prepares to explore the solar system, it conducts analog field tests to validate systems and concepts that can leverage space resources – a procedure called In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). ISRU field tests have focused on remotely operating technologies that extract oxygen from earthly soils similar to regolith of the moon and how they are utilized in other exploration systems such as power and propulsion.
Description: NASA remotely operated equipment that extracted and delivered volcanic tephra to a processor that treated the material with methane to extract oxygen from the minerals. Water produced in this process was electrolyzed, or split, into oxygen and hydrogen to be used in a fuel cell as well as to perform thruster firings. The international team, hosted by the University of Hawaii at Hilo, was comprised of NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the German Space Agency, 14 small businesses and seven universities. Together, they operated 17 resource utilization instruments and systems throughout the analog field test.
Analog Time Frame: The 2010 ISRU analog activities were conducted from Jan. 22 – Feb. 14, 2010.
Significance: By learning how to harvest extraterrestrial resources, space agencies can reduce the amount of supplies that astronauts would have to carry with them on future space missions.
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