Recent advances in space exploration have described the Moon as a source of human resources. For this reason, a lot of time and money has been invested in technologies that can allow oxygen to be produced in this celestial body.
According to the calculations of John Grant, professor of soil sciences at Southern Cross University, if sufficiently large amounts of oxygen on the moon’s surface could be extracted, only that would be enough. 10 meters of it to produce enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people on Earth for about 100,000 years.
But the road to this point is long, Grant explains.
In October, the Australian Space Agency and NASA signed a cargo agreement An Australian-made rover to the moon under the Artemis program, with the goal of collecting lunar rocks that could eventually provide breathable oxygen to the moon.
Although the Moon has an atmosphere, it is very thin and consists mostly of hydrogen, neon, and argon. It’s not the kind of gaseous mixture that can sustain oxygen-dependent mammals like humans.
I have said that, There is already a lot of oxygen on the moon. It is not in effervescent form. Instead, it is trapped within the regolith, the layer of fine rock and dust that covers the moon’s surface.
If we could extract oxygen from the regolith, Will this be enough to sustain human life on the moon?
Oxygen can be found in many minerals in the soil around us. Minerals such as silica, aluminum, iron oxides and magnesium dominate the lunar landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but not in the form that our lungs can reach.
The lunar regolith consists of approximately one 45% oxygen. But this oxygen is closely related to the above minerals. To break those strong bonds, we need to put energy through electrolysis. That is, passing an electric current through a liquid form of aluminum oxide (commonly called alumina) through the electrodes, to separate the aluminum from the oxygen.
It’s a fairly straightforward process, but there’s a catch: it has a lot of energy. to be sustainable, It must be powered by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon.
Extracting oxygen from regolith will also require large industrial equipment. We will first have to convert the solid metal oxide into a liquid form, either by applying heat or by combining it with solvents or electrolytes.
We have the technology to do this on Earth, but getting this device to the moon, and generating enough power to power it, is going to be a huge challenge.
Earlier this year, Belgium-based Space Applications Services announced that it was building three experimental reactors to improve the process of producing oxygen through electrolysis. AndThey hope to send the technology to the Moon by 2025 as part of the European Space Agency’s In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) mission.
However, when we make this possible, we willHow much oxygen can the moon actually carry? According to Professor Grant, there is just too much.
If we ignore the oxygen trapped in the deepest solid rocky substance on the Moon, and think only of the regolith, which is easily accessible at the surface, then some estimates can be made.
On average, each cubic meter of lunar regolith contains 1.4 tons of minerals, including about 630 kilograms of oxygen, Grant explains.. NASA says humans need to breathe about 800 grams of oxygen per day to survive. So 630 kg of oxygen will keep a person alive for about two years (or a little more).
Now suppose that the average depth of the regolith on the Moon is about 10 meters and that we can extract all the oxygen from it. This means that the top 10 meters of the Moon’s surface will provide enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people on Earth for about 100,000 years.
This will also depend on how efficiently we are able to extract and use the oxygen. Regardless, this number is pretty amazing!