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Why not apply ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach to space?

Europe – The European Space Agency (ESA) is looking for new ideas on materials that could be recycled or converted into different, useful resources.

It costs a fortune to get anything into space and the further it travels out into the solar system, the more valuable it becomes. So recycling or converting space hardware for follow-up missions could bring significant added value, ESA argues.

The idea has been inspired by the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach: all the raw materials in a product can be later reused for another product, or consumed as food, with no waste residue and no loss in quality. By adapting this approach to space, ESA believes future planetary probes or satellites might become sources of fuel, water or other scarce raw materials for the missions that come after them.

Examples might include: grinding down metal alloys into powder to serve as raw materials for manufacturing new hardware via 3D printing; organic materials could be separated by heating for use of the resulting gases; and leftover solid rocket fuel could be broken down for reuse.

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