In order to live on the moon, you need to extract that oxygen

Along with the progress of Sky Exploration, we have recently seen a lot of time and money invested in technologies that have the potential to enable effective technologies. Space resource utilization.. And at the forefront of these efforts is the sharp focus of the laser on discovery. Best way to generate oxygen A month.

October with the Australian Space Agency NASA Sign the contract Under the Artemis program, the goal is to send Australian-made rover to the moon and finally collect moon rocks that can supply the moon with breathable oxygen.

The moon has an atmosphere, but it is very thin and is mainly composed of hydrogen, neon, and argon. It is not the kind of gaseous mixture that can support oxygen-dependent mammals like humans.

However, the moon actually has a lot of oxygen. It is not gaseous. Instead, it is trapped inside a regolith — a layer of rock and fine dust that covers the surface of the moon. Is it enough to extract oxygen from regolith to support the human life of the moon?

Oxygen width

Oxygen is found in many minerals on the ground around us. And the moon is mainly made of the same rocks found on Earth (although the amount of material from meteorites is slightly higher).

Minerals such as silica, aluminum, iron and magnesium oxide dominate the lunar landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but they are not accessible to our lungs.

On the Moon, these minerals are present in several different forms, such as hard rocks, dust, gravel, and overlying stones. This material was developed as a result of meteorites colliding with the lunar surface for thousands of years.

Some people call the moon on the surface of the moon “soil,” but as a soil scientist, I hesitate to use this term. As we know, soil is a pretty magical thing that only happens on Earth. It has been created for millions of years by a vast number of organisms that act on regoliths derived from the hard rocks that are the base material of the soil.

The result is a matrix of minerals that did not exist in the original rock. The earth’s soil is infused with amazing physical, chemical and biological properties. The material on the surface of the moon, on the other hand, is the original pristine regolith.

One substance enters and two substances come out

Regolith on the moon Made of about 45% oxygen.. However, the oxygen is tightly bound to the above minerals. We need to put in energy to break those strong bonds.

If you know about electrolysis, you may be familiar with this. On earth, this process is commonly used in manufacturing, such as the production of aluminum. The electric current passes through the electrodes through the liquid aluminum oxide (commonly called alumina), separating the aluminum from oxygen.

In this case, oxygen is produced as a by-product. In the Moon, oxygen is the main product and the extracted aluminum (or other metal) is a potentially useful by-product.

This is a very simple process, but it has some pitfalls. It requires a lot of energy. To be sustainable, it will need to be supported by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon.

Extracting oxygen from regolith also requires considerable industrial equipment. First, the solid metal oxide must be converted to a liquid form by applying heat or by applying heat in combination with a solvent or electrolyte. we Have the technology To do this on Earth, moving this device to the moon and generating enough energy to carry it out is a major challenge.

Earlier this year, Belgium-based startup Space Applications Services announced that it would build three experimental reactors to improve the oxygen production process by electrolysis. They expect to send this technology to the Moon by 2025 as part of the European Space Agency’s In situ Resource Utilization (ISRU). Mission..

How much oxygen can the moon supply?

That said, how much oxygen can the moon actually supply when we manage to pull it off? Well, as it turned out, quite a lot.

Ignoring the oxygen trapped in the deeper, harder rocks of the Moon, and considering the regolith, which is easily accessible from the surface, some estimates can be made.

Each cubic meter of lunar regolith contains an average of 1.4 tonnes of minerals containing approximately 630 kilograms of oxygen. NASA says humans need to breathe 800 grams One day of oxygen to survive. Therefore, 630 kg of oxygen will keep a person alive for about two years (or just more).

Here, the average depth of the lunar regolith is About 10 meters, And be able to extract all oxygen from now on. This means that the top 10 meters of the Moon’s surface will provide enough oxygen to support all 8 billion people on Earth for about 100,000 years.

This also depends on how effectively oxygen is extracted and used. Anyway, this number is pretty cool!

That said, we’re making it pretty good here on earth. And we must do everything we can to protect the blue planet, especially its soil. It will continue to support the lives of all Earth, even if we do not even try.

This article John Grant, Soil science instructor, Southern Cross University Will be reissued from conversation Under a Creative Commons Original work.. In order to live on the moon, you need to extract that oxygen

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