Science

ESA Scientists Have Started Making Oxygen Out Of Simulated Moondust

ESA Scientists Have Started Making Oxygen Out Of Simulated Moondust”

When you need oxygen on the moon, a place with no atmosphere, the lunar regolith itself can be a source for oxygen extraction.

This can extract up to 96 percent of the oxygen from the regolith; as an added bonus, the material left over from this process is a mix of metal alloys.

If it works, it could provide humans with important resources that will aid future Moon missions, and maybe even enable long-term Moon bases and colonies.

According to Science Alert, the materials which could be produced from the research are now unknown to the European Space Agency.

'Having our own facility allows us to focus on oxygen production, measuring it with a mass spectrometer as it is extracted from the regolith simulant, ' said Beth Lomax of the University of Glasgow.

The facility, established under the European Space Agency's European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, will use a method which was discovered by Lomax and her colleagues in 2019.

Based on samples brought back from the Moon over the years, it turns out that lunar regolith (moon rock) is made up of 40 to 45 percent oxygen by weight, making it the satellite's single most abundant element, which is incredibly fortunate for future human colonization plans.

Next, electrodes are placed within the chemical concoction and an electric current is passed through.

The silent process is now performed on fake moondust created to replicate the properties of the lunar surface. However, as the facility evolves, a way of storing the oxygen will be included. It is, however, in the works that the produced oxygen will be stored for future use.

The first prototype oxygen facility will be attempting the same extraction process on a larger scale, it was reported by Science Alert on Monday.

"We're shifting our engineering approach to a systematic use of lunar resources in-situ", says Tommaso Ghidini, Head of ESA's Structures, Mechanisms and Materials Division.

The researchers say that their ultimate goal is to set up a "pilot plant" which could function sustainably on the moon using real lunar regolith.

Returning to the Moon is top of the list for a number of private companies and space agencies who all have different agendas.

To cherish the dream of colonizing the moon with a permanent human community or robotic industries, one professor at the University of Westminster by name Lewis Dartnell had proposed the idea of "Moontopia" which would be built inside massive hollow tubes, formed by lunar volcanic eruptions. Humans require breathable air and the moon has no such source.

The moon also houses helium-3, a rare isotope on our planet, that could theoretically be used to generate cleaner, safer nuclear energy for Earth.

Ultimately, the team wants to fine-tune this system to develop a design that can be flown to the moon to extract oxygen for breathing and generating rocket fuel as well as producing alloys for constructing habitats.



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