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
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 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
    Commented Jun 14, 2018 at 16:14
  • 1
    As I recall, they did not say it was methane. They said they would be able to synthesize it from methane.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 16, 2018 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" Commented Jun 30, 2018 at 4:55
  • The new SpaceX Raptor (power for the Starship and Starship Heavy booster) is a methane/LOX engine. Methane is a nice compromise between kerosene (dense, but relatively low efficiency) and hydrogen (high efficiency, but too low density). Hydrazine and its derivatives are used in RCS and other engines that need multiple restarts, like the Shuttle's OMS.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 17:35

1 Answer 1


I don't believe the fuel is ever described that way.

In S1E3 at 28:48, Maureen says

Our fuel is a methane hybrid. One of the compounds must be similar to its food source on the planet.

In any case, ammonia is used as solvent for organics, though AFAIK not methane specifically. Here methane and ammonia are encapsulated together by fullerenes.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.