Does water exist outside of our planet? Is there a future for space exploration of water?
Exploration in space
Mankind nowadays strives for the next generation, progress and a greater understanding of the Universe. The aerospace industry is now more developed than ever. But one question has always been in the focus of space exploration — life beyond Earth. Therefore, the presence of water outside of our planet has always been an object of strong scientific interest, as it normally would suggest the existence of extra-terrestrial life.
The recent discovery of water on the Moon has revolutionised current theories on the satellites’ potential, especially in terms of drinking water in space. But the Moon is just one of many space bodies where scientists have discovered water in one form or another.
Water in the Universe is also contained in large quantities of scattered clouds as part of inaccessible exoplanets and glacial formations. The existence of the only liquid ocean in our Solar system has been reliably confirmed. It is located on Europa, the moon of Jupiter. On other cosmic bodies, scientists can assume the presence of water, based on circumstantial evidence.
Future missions — push for new exploration
To date, space is still little explored. A little more than fifty years have passed since the moment a human foot first stepped on an extra-terrestrial surface.
Over the past half-century, a human managed to walk on the Moon and photograph its dark side, created an artificial satellite of Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury, which is not the limit.
Here are some insights:
- The James Webb Space Telescope, which was launched 25 December 2021, will study phases of cosmic history, including the birth of stars and the origin of life.
- For the next few years both countries (China, South Korea) and space organisations (SpaceX, NASA) plan to launch missions that will focus on exploring the lunar environment for further activities on the Moon.
- NASA’s Artemis mission, which started in 2021, aims to establish a long-term presence on the Moon with further exploration of water and resources.
- Both Mars and Europa, a Jupiter’s moon, remain interesting for the scientific future exploration of water presence and possible life existence search.
Space water in long-distance missions
When talking about space water in the future, it will boost space development and tourism, as it might be used for fuel production and for life support. Using water in outer space as a resource for liquid hydrogen as a rocket fuel might unlock opportunities for long-distance missions. Moreover, oxygen generation and water purification of the space water might increase crew sizes and space travel distances.
Using water from space might also lower water delivery costs from the Earth to space stations and boost space farming. Also, using space water as the radiation shield might allow to pursue long-haul missions and conduct deeper scientific research. Finally, usage of space water will accelerate space exploration and give a start to the active mining of rare space resources, bringing global economy on beyond Earth level.