May 25, 2022

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Indoor space plan to create an “oxygen farm” on the moon for NASA astronauts

Indoor space plan to create an "oxygen farm" on the moon for NASA astronauts

The European Space Agency plans to build an oxygen plant on the Moon to help astronauts breathe in outer space.

The European Space Agency (ESA), on Wednesday, chose a winner to be the first to build a payload whose mission will be to extract oxygen from the moon’s surface, according to a new agency. Transfer.

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An artist’s drawing of what solar-powered lunar plants might look like one day
The European Space Agency (ESA) extracts oxygen from simulated lunar soil

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The European Space Agency (ESA) extracts oxygen from simulated lunar soilCredit: ESA

Led by Thales Alenia Space in the UK, the winning team will need to produce a small instrument that can assess the potential for building larger plants on the Moon.

The purpose of these lunar plants is β€œto extract propellants for spacecraft and porous air for astronauts β€” as well as mineral raw materials for equipment,” according to the report.

A prerequisite for the payload is the ability to extract 50 to 100 grams of oxygen from the lunar regolith, which is soft, gray soil on the moon’s surface that has a density of about 1.5 g/cm3.

The device, which will be powered by solar energy, must also be able to provide accurate measurements of performance and gas concentrations.

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“The payload should be compact, low-powered, and capable of flying on a range of potential lunar landers, including ESA’s Large European Logistics Lander,” said David Benz, systems engineer from the European Space Agency’s Synchronous Design Facility. EL3″.

On top of meeting the above criteria, the team’s payload vehicle must be able to complete these missions within one lunar day, which is the equivalent of a 12-day period on Earth.

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Previous studies by the European Space Agency have already shown that the most abundant element of the lunar regolith is oxygen, making up about 40-45% of its weight.

However, it is not as easy as it seems to extract this oxygen due to it being chemically bound as oxides in the form of metals or glass.

However, a prototype of the oxygen plant set up in ESTEC’s Laboratory of Electrical Materials and Components has perfected the procedure.

The process consists of using electrolysis to crack the simulated lunar regolith into metals and oxygen – essential resources for long-duration, sustainable space missions.

“The ability to extract oxygen from a rocky moon, along with usable minerals, will be a game-changer in lunar exploration,” Baines said.

He noted that this feat would allow international astronauts to live outside Earth without the need for expensive ground supply lines.

Finally, Bynes announced that the team looks forward to working with the winning consortium to “make their design a reality.”

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