Walls of water could protect astronauts from radiation while recycling their bodily waste and purifying the air, under a new NASA concept. The "Water Walls" design takes a page from mother nature and uses water for passive protection.
The concept's formal name is Highly Reliable and Massively Redundant Life Support Architecture, and it's part of NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts program, meaning it just received funding for further study. It would use a framework of hexagon-shaped polyethylene bags serving as the walls of a spacecraft. They'd be filled with various bacteria, algae and filters to clean and purify water and air and provide food — algae as food may not be tasty, but it would be nutritious — and shield the spacecraft's occupants from space. The concept is by Michael Flynn at NASA's Ames Research Center.
"Nature uses no compressors, evaporators, lithium hydroxide canisters, oxygen candles, or urine processors," Flynn points out. Earth's atmosphere and water are instead renewed through passive processes, and this is what he proposes for future spacecraft.
The only mechanical element would be the pumps required to move water into the appropriate places. The system would contain at least five separate elements: Gray water processing, for urine and shower water; black water processing for solid waste; air processing to remove CO2 and restore oxygen; food growth using algae; and radiation protection. Water has been proposed in the past for the latter, but this system is unique because it integrates water's other uses, too.
Spacecraft would carry spare bags to replace used or depleted ones, and the whole thing is massively redundant, to use Flynn's phrase — a far cry from current life-support systems, which rely on mechanical instruments and can fail. NASA approved $100,000 for further development of this concept.
Oh great ET will see that mankind travels in it's own poop.....
At something like over 8 lb/gal, launching a gallon of water out of earth orbit would currently cost over $100,000. Far too expensive and inefficient for such a use.
"According to Steve Garber, the NASA History website curator, the final cost of project Apollo was between $20 and $25.4 billion in 1969 Dollars (or approximately $136 billion in 2007 Dollars)." -wikipedia
i don't know, but it seems to me that money is not an issue with these people. and all the apparatus that they no longer need to bring weighs something as well, so it may not be much heavier. and a last point, they seem to want to use waste water as the primary source for the tech, and that (as far as i know) was not good for much in space previous to this development.
Yes, they will see that, but they'll also see mankind's ingenuity and tenacity.
Keep in mind that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen-which, conveniently, happen to be used in some instances as liquid rocket fuel.
Remember that NASA's funding nowadays is a fraction of what it used to be. And it's still dwindling. Just recently, due to budget cuts, NASA had to pull out of a mission that would have brought back a very decently-sized sample from the martian surface. With NASA being forced out of the project, which was to be a joint operation with (2?) other space agencies, the mission may not end up flying at all.
I think it's great that this idea is receiving serious consideration. Water is a great source of protection from all kinds of fast-moving particles. It even makes a decent bullet -that is to say, micro meteor- barrier.
Oh good....our future astronauts will arrive at Mars or an asteroid safe and sound.....surrounded by radioactive poop..
Water is heavy, and I am sure these days, with urine processing in space, we send our boys up with crossed legs and bring them home all cotton mouthed (sounds like prom).
Water is availible in space (gives many comets their tail), so that might turn out to be something you can grab and move in space down the road to fill the tanks (which emply seem simple enough).
Liquid is also a good force absorber (the harder it is hit the harder it hits back), making a few sacrifical layers a good choice for meteoric protection.
"Keep in mind that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen-which, conveniently, happen to be used in some instances as liquid rocket fuel"
Water vapor is actually the exhaust product of LH/LOx rocket engines. In order for water to be used for fuel/oxidizer in such an engine, the water would first have to be separated into H2 and 02 gas, which requires lots of energy. Then those gases would have to be compressed and cryogenically cooled so that they are in a state suitable for use in the rocket engine, which would also require huge amounts of power and equipment.
While water walls may provide radiation protection, with manned space flight ballistic protection from meteorites, etc. is even more important. And water bags are no help in this regard, since any impact would likely produce a leak.
The MMOD protection used on the ISS consists of 2 or 3 thin aluminum panels spaced about 6 inches apart, with layers of nextel and kevlar fabric in between. The outer aluminum panel causes the meteorite to spall on impact, and the fabric layers behind safely capture the debris. While bulky, this type of MMOD protection is far lighter and more effective than water bags.
And ultrasonics for direct containment. We already try to shield all of the hardened systems anyway, right? Adding plants to the water is just fantastic. What radiation resistant plants we got so far? As for algae as a base food component, they'd be making stuff out of it in no time. This might do by itself at first, but not long term. In Sol system.
So how much radiation can we dissipate for how much water if we use ultrasonics? Using craft movement at first to aid in dumping. Get more accurate as time goes on with controllable profiles and separated amounts of varying liquids.