Steam-Powered Spacecraft Could Explore the Asteroid Belt Forever, Refueling Itself in Space

The era of renewed space exploration has led to some rather ambitious proposals. While many have been on the books for decades, it has only been in recent years that some of these plans have become technologically feasible. A good example is asteroid mining, where robotic spacecraft would travel to Near-Earth Asteroids and the Main Asteroid Belt to harvest minerals and other resources.

At the moment, one of the main challenges is how these craft would be able to get around and refuel once they are in space. To address this, the New York-based company Honeybee Robotics has teemed up with the University of Central Florida (UFC) to develop a steam-powered robotic spacecraft. The company recently released a demonstration video that shows their prototype World is Not Enough (WINE) “steam hopper” in action.

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A Memorial to 9/11… on Mars

Today, on the 11th anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, countless hearts and minds will be reflecting upon a day that changed our world forever and remembering those who lost their lives in the tragic collapse of the twin towers. Memorial events will be held in many locations around the planet… and even, in a small yet poignant way, on another planet. For, unknown to many, two pieces of the World Trade Center are currently on the surface of Mars: one affixed to the rover Spirit, now sitting silently next to a small rise dubbed “Home Plate”, and the other on its sister rover Opportunity, still actively exploring the rim of Endeavour crater.

Even more than scientific exploration tools, these rovers are also interplanetary memorials to all the victims of 9/11.

(The following is a repost of an article first featured on Universe Today in 2011, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.)

In September of 2001 workers at Honeybee Robotics in lower Manhattan were busy preparing the Rock Abrasion Tools that the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity would each be equipped with, specialized instruments that would allow scientists to study the interiors of Martian rocks. After the World Trade Center attacks occurred, the company wanted a way to memorialize those who had lost their lives.

Through what was undoubtedly some incredibly skillful use of contacts, Honeybee founder and MER science team member Stephen Gorevan – on a suggestion by JPL engineer Steve Kondos and with help from the NYC mayor’s office and rover mission leader Steve Squyres – was able to procure two pieces of aluminum from the tower debris. These were fashioned into cylindrical cable shields by a contracted metal shop in Round Rock, Texas, and had American flags adhered to each by Honeybee engineer Tom Myrick.

The image above, taken in 2004, shows the cable shield with American flag on the Rock Abrasion Tool attached to Spirit. At right is an image of the flag shield on Opportunity, acquired on September 11, 2011.

The rovers were launched in the summer of 2003 and have both successfully operated on Mars many years past their planned initial mission timelines. Spirit currently sits silent, having ceased communication in March 2010, but Opportunity is still going strong in its exploration of the Martian surface.

“It’s gratifying knowing that a piece of the World Trade Center is up there on Mars. That shield on Mars, to me, contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans.”

– Stephen Gorevan, Honeybee Robotics founder and chairman

These memorials will remain on Mars long after both rovers have ceased to run, subtle memorials to thousands of lives and testaments to our ability to forge ahead in the name of hopefulness and discovery.

Original source: OnOrbit.com

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Photo of Manhattan taken from orbit on September 11, 2001. (NASA)

A Martian Memorial to 9/11

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the September 11 World Trade Center attacks (has it already been ten years??) countless hearts and minds will be remembering the fateful day our world changed forever, and the many people who tragically lost their lives in the catastrophic collapse of the twin towers. Memorial events will be held in many locations around the world… and even, in a small yet poignant way, on another world. For, unknown to many, two pieces of the World Trade Center are on the surface of Mars: one affixed to the rover Spirit which sits silently in its permanent position near a small plateau called “Home Plate” and the other on its sister rover Opportunity, currently exploring the rim of the vast Endeavour crater.

Much more than scientific exploration tools, these rovers are also interplanetary memorials to the victims of 9/11.

In September of 2001 workers at Honeybee Robotics in lower Manhattan were busy preparing the Rock Abrasion Tools that the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity would each be equipped with, specialized instruments that would allow scientists to study the interiors of Martian rocks. After the World Trade Center attacks occurred, the company wanted a way to memorialize those who had lost their lives.

Through what was undoubtedly some incredibly skillful use of contacts, Honeybee founder and MER science team member Stephen Gorevan – on a suggestion by JPL engineer Steve Kondos  and with help from the NYC mayor’s office and rover mission leader Steve Squyres – was able to procure two pieces of aluminum from the tower debris. These were fashioned into cylindrical cable shields by a contracted metal shop in Round Rock, Texas, and had American flags adhered to each by Honeybee engineer Tom Myrick.

The rovers were launched in the summer of 2003 and have both successfully operated on Mars many years past their planned initial mission timelines. Spirit currently sits silent, having ceased communication in March 2010, but Opportunity is still going strong in its exploration of the Martian surface.

“It’s gratifying knowing that a piece of the World Trade Center is up there on Mars. That shield on Mars, to me, contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans.”

– Stephen Gorevan, Honeybee Robotics founder and chairman

The image above, taken in 2004, shows the cable shield with American flag on the Rock Abrasion Tool attached to Spirit.

These memorials will remain on Mars long after both rovers have ceased to run, subtle memorials to thousands of lives and testaments to our ability to forge ahead in the name of hopefulness and discovery.

Read the full story by Keith Cowing on OnOrbit.com.

Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech