Using a Renewable Iron Cycle in Lunar & Mars Habitats
Pei Hong Zhou
Floor Location : S 071 E
A trip to the Moon and back can be accomplished over a few weeks. Long term Mars missions pose a unique challenge. A Mission to Mars would require a few years. Lunar and Mars habitation would represent visits of months to years.
Key to long term habitation is the availability of reliable sources of kWs of electrical power. Electrical energy is key to both safety and survival on both the Moon and Mars. Without reliable sources of electricity there cannot be long-term habitation.
Consideration is being given to using SNAP reactors powered with PU-238, as well as photoelectric cells (SNAP stands for Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power). Such sources of electricity have technological limits and need to be built on Earth and transported to the habitation site. Production of PU-238 is notoriously difficult and expensive, and can be done on the basis of a few kg per year. Cosmic rays degrade photoelectric cells, meaning they need to be replaced every five to ten years when used in space.
Ideally simpler and more robust sources of electricity needs to be found for long-term space missions. Both the Moon and Mars are rich in iron. It is proposed that an Iron Cycle be considered as a renewable energy source for long-term habitation on the Moon and Mars.
As will be explained in three sections to this study: iron can be used in all-iron batteries, iron can be combusted as a powder to release energy, and iron can be used in manufacturing.