NASA is in the works of developing what only seemed possible in futuristic movies. In their facility just outside Orlando, a team has managed to manufacture a reactor that creates methane fuel, which can power a spaceship out an unlikely source: general trash debris! All do respect to a handful of industrious and resourceful individuals with a lot of time on their hands that have managed to run their old thunderbirds on cow manure, NASA is making strides that even the wildest hypothesizers didn’t think were possible. We aren’t talking about fueling from a natural source to conserve fossil fuels and avoid pollution, these developments are directly correlated to the need for extended space travel. NASA calls it the ‘trash-to-gas’ project.

As with many great inventions, the idea behind using trash as a power source on a large scale was born out of necessity. The problem: extended space travel, such as the 6 month voyage to and from Mars, which requires more fuel than can be carried during initial launch. The solution: devise a method by which additional fuel can actually be manufactured on board the space shuttle.

Trash to Gas

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Currently, space missions travel no further than the moon and typically do not last more than a couple of weeks. Since there are no dumpster rentals in space, astronauts either collect trash debris and keep in on board, or offload it into space and burn it up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Since the missions are relatively short, these are acceptable methods of disposal. However, in the case of a longer mission, astronauts must make that trash work for them, rather than turning the space shuttle into a landfill. The result is to create a device that burns at 1,000 degrees, and converts the trash to a methane fuel. Estimates are that a crew of 4 would create over 2,000 pounds of such fuel during a year in space, which is enough to power a shuttle launch from the lunar surface! Imagine the amount of trash dumpsters that the equivalent trash would fill instead.

The theory of burning manure or trash has existed for a long time, but only at a place like Nasa could it be elevated to such epic proportions of powering a space shuttle. Perhaps more relevant to the assistance in space travel, is the practical applications that can be used on Earth. Reactors could theoretically be created through which villages or compounds could create energy simply by disposing of their trash, or the military could use them in remote or private locations to which fuel shipments would be dangerous. Regardless of the uses, NASA is involved in improvements to the earth that many didn’t think realistic until the distant future.