Abstract Issue 5, 2015
This paper considers the use of hematite for in-situ rocket fuel production on Mars. Hematite is so ubiquitous on Mars that it gives the red planet its color and, indirectly, its name. In the process proposed here, by exploiting the low atmospheric pressure on Mars, hematite oﬀers the possibility of eliminating the electrolytic steps associated with current in-situ resource utilization schemes. In the proposed process, hematite () from the rich deposits found on Mars (e.g. at Terra Meridiani) is reduced to magnetite () which is used in a two-step thermochemical cycle for splitting water and , resulting in the production of and . In this way, the temperatures needed to split water and -molecules are reduced from the very high values (> 2500 ◦C) required in the most direct, one-step process to ∼1400◦C. However, Mars oﬀers even greater possibilities. The recent discovery of manganese-rich materials in rock samples opens up the possibility, in advanced stages of settlement, of manganese being used directly or mixed with magnetite (in earlier stages of settlement) thus enabling the maximum splitting temperature to be reduced to ∼900 C. Additional R&D is required to explore further the potential of these rocket fuel production methods for Mars.
Reference: Francisco J. Arias. On the in-situ production of oxygen and hydrogen from martian hematite deposits via a two-step thermochemical splitting process. The Space Colonization Journal, Issue 5, 2015. URL: http://jour.space/issues/issue-5-2015/