[MUSIC PLAYING] MASON PECK: A lot of the mass we send to orbit these days is the only way we get anything into space. But what if we could use what's already there? If we could refuel spacecraft while they're already in space, then means they could go farther, probably faster. They could accomplish a lot more. And we wouldn't rely on earth for supplies. The Cislunar Explorer's mission has an important goal, and that's to demonstrate that you can use water as a propellant in space.
KYLE DOYLE: The core technology on this spacecraft is electrolysis propulsion. That is, the spacecraft carries a tank full of liquid water, which does not burn, but electrolyzes it into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Of course, water is H2O, and by zapping the water with electricity, we can break those chemical bonds, produce a very combustible gas mixture, and we make a little bit of this at a time and combust it in short pulses every 30 minutes to an hour or so and propel our spacecraft that way.
MASON PECK: When this mission's successful, it will have demonstrated that we can reach lunar orbit with water as the propellant. At the same time, I think we will already have been successful in another way, and that's through bringing in a number of students into this extraordinary experience. I mean, not many students get to launch their senior project, right? So this is a great way for students to learn experientially.
Not only do they learn through coursework at Cornell University, but they also get exposure to difficult projects that you can't achieve simply by taking courses. And I think that kind of experience is a success of its own.
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Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell University graduate and undergraduate students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the moon.