At the end of the Second World War the West raced to grab one of the few precious resources that Germany had left – its rocket scientists. The likes of Werhner von Braun, who had been responsible for the design and realisation of the deadly V2 rocket, brought the necessary knowledge to kick-start the American space effort. Indeed he became a key figure in NASA, and as chief architect of the Saturn rocket was instrumental in putting a man on the moon.
What is less well documented is a similar race to find the best space scientists in Russia when communism collapsed and the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. The American government were particularly interested in the Plesetsk Aerodrome, in northern Russia, which was part of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). At the time the work of Prof. Aprel Durak, and his team based at Plesetsk, was of particular interest to NASA. Long space missions, such as those to Mars, and the establishment of colonies poses many challenges. One of these is either finding a source of water for your colony, or being faced with the almost impossible task of taking the water you need with you (the density of water makes it prohibitive to launch significant quantities in to space). Undercover agents made contact with Prof Durak and his team, and they were persuaded to join NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Virginia, which is thought to have strong ties to the CIA.
Their work initially focused on producing absolutely pure water, which is necessary for any space mission. A water molecule is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. However, you can’t simply take two hydrogen atoms and stick them onto an oxygen atom. The actual reaction to make water is a bit more complicated: 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O + Energy. The production of energy being a significant bonus, being used to power the process itself. The well-known reaction also describes what happens inside a hydrogen fuel cell.
The next part was to see how the mass of the pure water could be reduced. This relies upon work carried out by Isaac Newton which shows that mass may be reduced by the following formula:
However, the process requires the use of an isotope of Nitrogen called Fossor and a Neutrino Particle Accelerator (neither of which were available to Newton at the turn of the 18th century). The result is a new compound of water called H2NO. The compound is more than 1/1000 the mass of the original water, and requires just the addition of a single drop of water to ‘re-activate’ the H2NO back to its original form of H2O. The bonus is that the resultant release of the Nitrogen isotope, can be used to power the next generation of Ion Engines to be used by NASA on long-range space missions. One cup of H2NO can reactivate to make 250 litres of pure water.
The technology of being able to transport huge quantities of pure water as small quantities of powder offers fantastic opportunities for improved health, disaster relief agencies and general exploration.
At the time of writing NASA appear to be denying the existence of H2NO, but American reporter Abril Tonto of the Los Angeles Tribune is set to publish details, released by the US government under The Freedom of Information Act, in his forthcoming book.
Is this the greatest invention of all time? Almost certainly !