We Could Explore Asteroids Forever With Steam-Propelled Spacecraft

Scientists have developed a steam-propelled spacecraft that could work forever and jump from asteroid to asteroid to conduct experiments, map and analyze them. How is this possible? It will need to extract water to use as fuel.

The device is as big as a microwave and scientists theorize that it could travel through space forever as long as it has fuel for its rockets.

WINE – a Craft For Which the “World Is Not Enough”

The prototype craft is called the “World Is Not Enough,” or WINE, and it was funded by NASA. Scientists at Honeybee Robotics (Californian robotics company) have developed it, with Dr. Phil Metzger (University of Central Florida) part of the team. Planetary researcher Dr. Metzger worked on a computer modeling that helped create the device

At the end of December, the team tested the craft in a lab and used simulated material which could be found on an asteroid.

“It’s awesome. WINE successfully mined the soil, made rocket propellant, and launched itself on a jet of steam extracted from the simulant. We could potentially use this technology to hop on the Moon, Ceres, Europa, Titan, Pluto, the poles of Mercury, asteroids – anywhere there is water and sufficiently low gravity.”

According to the vice president of Honeybee Robotics, Kris Zacny, this new type of craft will “change how we explore the universe.”

The device also has solar panels to power the instruments to mine or make steam, and if it’s too far from the Sun, let’s say Pluto, it can use the radioactive material on board to provide energy.

Considering that missions to planets had to stop because of the limited propellant, there is a loss of time and money, so here is where WINE can change this.

Honeybee Robotics create space drilling tools and systems that look for alien life on other planets. The WINE project also includes the Spider Water Extraction System which allows the craft to drill into the asteroids’ surface and extract ice to get the water and use it as fuel.