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Watching the new Lost In Space, in the second or third episode, alien worms appear and start to consume the Jupiter’s fuel at a prodigious rate. The fuel is described as a complex ammoniac compound. Okay, say I the 20th century chemist, I can see some overly complex fuel molecule being difficult to synthesize in bulk under such conditions (although really, you would think they would have the capacity to do so, but that’s a question for another time).

But then a few episodes later when they go to grab the last remaining fuel on the planet, they refer to it as methane. Methane. The simplest organic molecule in existence. Not even vaguely ammoniac.

There is no reason for the crew to have flipped out once they got on land if indeed the fuel was methane. They had plenty of food and water and shelter, they clearly had the know-how, there is no reason they could not have manufactured sufficient liquid methane. Which, for that matter, is an odd choice for spaceship fuel but whatever.

So, what exactly was the fuel used in the Jupiter lifeboats, and why would they have been unable to manufacture more?

No spoilers here, but yes we later find out they don’t have as much time as hey thought, but they didn’t know that at the time.

  • Can methane provide enough energy to power a ship into orbit? I've seen the new Lost in Space and liked it, but the first time they mentioned methane I thought that it couldn't be right. Maybe methane is used as a catalyst for a more powerful source of energy. I don't remember them mentioning anything like it in the show though. – MrInfinity Jun 14 '18 at 12:45
  • @MrInfinity as I said, it’s an odd choice for spaceship fuel. When they mentioned the worms living off of hydrocarbons, I thought it odd since they had mentioned it was ammoniac, which isn’t a hydrocarbon. But yea, methane is a weird choice from an energy density standpoint but maybe their engines are doing something non-burning with it, I dunno. – Broklynite Jun 14 '18 at 16:14
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    As I recall, they did not say it was methane. They said they would be able to synthesize it from methane. – Kevin Jun 16 '18 at 22:31
  • Hydrazine, or diamidogen ( N2H4) is a modern rocket fuel, and while it has an ammonia smell it is synthesized either by oxidizing chlorine and ammonia or peroxide oxidation of ammonia. No methane involved, unless they use liquid methane to keep it in a safe solution ( Hydrazine is highly toxic ) though liquid methane itself is a tricky thing to store. Think this is a case of "Clever writers, but not clever enough" – Covertwalrus Jun 30 '18 at 4:55

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