Anonymous
Anonymous asked in Science & MathematicsAstronomy & Space · 1 month ago

# How do spaceships and space labs not run out of fuel (energy) like going to mars and landing and then sending pictures?

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• garry
Lv 5
1 month ago

they take a supply of duracells along..after all duracells last longer ..

• Amy
Lv 7
1 month ago

A few different answers depending on what the spacecraft is doing.

A rocket going to Mars does run out of fuel. It starts with just enough fuel to get to Mars, and it drops empty fuel tanks to make the remaining rocket lighter.

A space station in Earth orbit has to be refueled.

You might think an orbit doesn't require any propulsion - after all, the Moon doesn't use fuel. But the space station is in a very low orbit where there's still some atmosphere and hence friction. It needs a little bit of fuel to maintain its speed.

A rover taking pictures on Mars has solar panels which recharge a battery. These rovers typically last until the panels get too dirty to take in enough sunlight, or the battery fails to charge.

Cameras launched far away from the Sun use nuclear power (which will run out after a very long time).

• Manuel
Lv 4
1 month ago

The space ships/labs have fuel cells/batteries to supply the energy requirements needed.

• 1 month ago

Because they don't need it.  Here on a solid surface which exerts friction, we're used to thinking of movement in an Aristotelian sort of way, that if you stop putting energy into something it will slow down and stop.  This is because the surface pushes back on the object and saps its energy, along with gravity pulling it down.  This is a special case of motion which doesn't apply to the rest of the Universe because elsewhere there is less friction/drag and gravity is usually weaker.  Therefore Newtonian laws of motion apply, which is that objects, once pushed, stay at the same velocity and move in straight lines.  Space probes are either solar powered or rely on radioactive batteries built in to perform their tasks, but they only need fuel to steer if they're in space.

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• 1 month ago

Well, the fuel needed to get there is carefully calculated... as long as nothing goes wrong - and, there's no sudden change in the mission - the fuel will get them to (and, eventually from) Mars...

Taking pictures, and moving around is a bit different; the first 3 rovers on Mars used solar panels to charge batteries and equipment on board; the Curiosity rover, and the new one on it's way now - use an RTG to create electricity, so they don't have to rely on sunlight.  An RTG uses the heat from Plutonium decay to create electricity.  (Voyager 1 and 2, Pioneer 10 and 11, and the Cassini probes (as well as others) all used RTG to generate electricity for their sensors and communications.

• Zirp
Lv 7
1 month ago

they do

but spacelabs are parked in an orbit that doesn't require fuel-use

spaceships just drift

• 1 month ago

Spacecraft use fuel to go into orbit around Earth.  In this orbit they are checked out from ground command, then their rockets reignite to send them on to whichever planet they are targeted for.  On arrival the rockets bring them into orbit around whatever, and if required slow them down for landing.  The scientific equipment aboard anything going no further from the Sun than Mars are powered by solar panels.  Beyond Mars collecting enough solar would require ridiculously large panels, so they are powered by radioactive batteries, generally using an isotope of plutonium--NOT the isotope used in bombs, though.

• 1 month ago

The speed and direction needed, the distances to travel, the gravitational forces to be overcome are well known.  Computers calculate down to the gallon the fuel needed to reach the speed for the weight of the rocket.  The launch uses 96% of the fuel.  After that, most of the time the spacecraft is coasting.  A minor course correction might be done with a small amount of fuel used.  On arrival at Mars, a heat shield absorbs a lot of the energy and heats up, just like a car's disk brakes.  Then a parachute is used for more slowing, and a final altitude drop.  At just the last moments, tiny rocket motors stop the fall, hover above the ground, and lowers the lander on cables.  Then the spacecraft detaches and flies a short distance, crashing.  The lander is safe on the surface of Mars after all that.  Simple, right?

For experiments, travel, video, and beaming data back to Earth, batteries supply power and are recharged by solar panels.

For vehicles that go farther from the sun than Mars, panels would have to be too large and heavy in the fainter light.  A radioactive cannister heats an electric converter for powering the spacecraft.

• Jim
Lv 7
1 month ago

They can and do run out of fuel

• Mark
Lv 7
1 month ago

Solar and nuclear power.

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