Humans could survive in space on water regenerated on asteroids, suggests NASA-funded study

Water is understandably vital for habitability anywhere in space and key to making humans an interplanetary species.


So many plans are currently underway to make humankind a space-faring race. There's no lack of ambition or inspiration from science fiction for a future where humanity doesn't just travel in space but lives as interstellar travellers. With the right mix of engineering, a resource-rich celestial body, some space-weathering, and luck, humans could survive in space, says a new NASA-funded study.

Scientists made the suggestion after learning how water molecules can be regenerated in asteroids that move across space. Studying water on asteroids led a team of researchers to discover that water can be replenished on an asteroid's surface if solar winds and meteor impacts take place simultaneously at very low temperatures.

Humans could survive in space on water regenerated on asteroids, suggests NASA-funded study

Water can be regenerated on asteroids from space weathering. Image: NASA

They found two components of space weathering — electrons and thermal shock — both of which are necessary to maintain the supply of water molecules on an asteroid's surface. Past research suggests that any single component of space weathering is enough to sustain a supply of water on asteroids. Most of what researchers know about processes and products of space weathering comes from samples of the moon, and to some extent, meteorites.

Water is thought to be vitally important for habitability anywhere in space, making the finding very relevant for studies exploring life as an interplanetary species.

Isn't it out of this world? Image: NASA

Isn't it out of this world? Image: NASA

"This complex process to regenerate surface water molecules could also be a possible mechanism to replenish water supplies on other airless bodies, such as the moon. This research finding has potentially significant implications. We all know the availability of water in the solar system is an extremely important element for habitability in space," said Miljkovic to university press.

The study and its findings were published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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