When it comes to space travel, even a small cost reduction can come to an enormous sum of money and resources. With that in mind, NASA has just patented a new method to get to the Moon faster and cheaper, and it's not via a newfangled spacecraft technology.
The space organization has revealed that it has discovered a new trajectory to the Moon that will get future missions to our celestial neighbor more efficiently.
NASA's new method allows for a small unmanned spacecraft to reach the Moon relatively quickly and on very little fuel.
The method, which was patented by NASA in June, sees the unmanned spacecraft essentially hitch a ride with communication satellites in order to reach high-Earth orbit before using the Earth's and the moon's gravity to perform a slingshot maneuver to the Moon.
The patent describes the maneuver as a "method for transferring a spacecraft from geosynchronous transfer orbit to lunar orbit."
As Business Insider reports, the first spacecraft to use the new trajectory will be the Dark Ages Polarimeter Pathfinder (Dapper), a mission developed by the University of Colorado Boulder which will set out to record from the far side of the Moon, for the first time, low-frequency radio waves that were emitted during the Universe's early formation.
The trajectory and patent, which was first spotted by lawyer Jeff Steck, reportedly arose out of a need to keep the Dapper mission's costs as low as possible, as it was on a relatively low budget for space missions at $150 million.
“This trajectory to the moon arose out of necessity, as these things often do,” Jack Burns, an astrophysicist at the University of Colorado Boulder and leader of the Dapper mission, told Business Insider. “We needed to keep the launch costs low and find a cheap way to get to the moon.”
While the new method won't go as fast as the Apollo 11 mission, which reached the Moon in only a few days, it will go much faster than equivalent smaller missions that use much less rocket fuel. NASA estimates that the trip to the Moon will take about two and a half months, while similar-sized missions typically take up to six months.