Scientists are currently looking into just how much water near-Earth asteroids are actually carrying. The research could tell if minerals found in space rocks have “alien” organic molecules that can support life or if they can be used as a resource for other things like rocket fuel.
According to Space.com, scientists have spotted about 20,000 space rocks floating around the space near our planet. These are believed to be carrying enough water to support life and serve other purposes.
“We know that there are minerals with water in them on asteroids. We know that from meteorites that have fallen to the ground. It’s also possible that Earth’s water came largely from impacts,” Andrew Rivkin, a planetary scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, said in a statement.
The research was done mostly to determine if water found on the asteroids can actually be used to create rocket fuel. This is a big advantage if proven as it can reduce the cost of going around space since rockets would no longer need to be burdened with the weight of carrying enough fuel for their journey.
The outcome, however, could also play a more significant role in determining if there really is enough water in these asteroids to explain how life began on our planet. The findings could support earlier studies on the near-Earth meteorites.
Last year, for example, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe detected water on the large asteroid Bennu. The discovery supported the suggestion that water was actually very common in the early solar system.
“That is important because we are still trying to understand how planets form and evolve over time,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and a member of the OSIRIS-REx team, said in a report by NBC News.
The discovery supports the theory that comets and asteroids such as Bennu are the sources of water and possibly organic molecules which started life on the planet.
“Those components together are needed building blocks for life. It all ties together with understanding Earth’s early history,” Simon said.