ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) and NASA recently announced the launch of an environmentally-friendly, safe propellant comprised of aluminum powder and water ice (ALICE)…[Dr. Steven F.] Son noted, “The ALICE propellant can be improved with the addition of oxidizers and become a potential solid rocket propellant on Earth. Away from this planet, on the Moon or Mars, ALICE can be manufactured in those locations instead of being transported at a large cost.”
– Callier, Maria. “AFOSR and NASA Launch First-Ever Test Rocket Fueled by Environmentally-Friendly, Safe Aluminum-Ice Propellant.” Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 20 August 2009.
Given the tiny number of rocket/shuttle launches the planet has to endure every year, I am not worried about them causing polar bears to drown, or starve, or get minimum-wage jobs. But the fact that this propellant’s key components can be found on other worlds, thereby making it possible to manufacture fuel somewhere other than Earth, is kind of exciting. Certainly it will make space exploration cheaper in the long run, as spacecraft will not always have to tanker every last drop of their required fuel from Earth.