“The European Space Agency has announced that it has selected a team of scientists to produce lunar oxygen,” reports Digital Trends.
The team, headed by the aerospace company Thales Alenia Space, will develop and construct a payload that will produce the oxygen needed to breathe from moon soil.
Transporting oxygen into space with rockets isn’t efficient, so it is therefore more efficient that astronauts discover ways to produce the oxygen they require in the space they’re exploring. This concept is known as in-situ resource utilisation , and it is an important concept that will be used in the future lunar missions and on Mars.
The lunar payload is planned to generate between 50 and 100 grammes of oxygen in the dusty substance that covers the moon. This is known as regolith. The goal is to capture 70% of the oxygen within the sample within 10 days. The reason for this is that it has to function within the limits of solar energy during the lunar cycle, which is about two weeks.
Research and experiments have demonstrated that it is feasible in the future to get oxygen extracted from the lunar regolith, which is composed of approximately 40–45% oxygen by weight. The problem is now to develop a practical device within the limitations of space and materials.
A systems engineer at the design department of NASA is optimistic about the venture, as per an announcement made on Wednesday. “Being capable of extracting oxygen from moonrock, together with the useable metals, is a game-changer for lunar exploration, and will allow the international expeditioners for return trips to the Moon to live on the land and not be dependent on lengthy and costly supply lines from terrestrial sources.”