Scientists at the Johnson Space Center extracted oxygen from simulated lunar soil in a vacuum environment.
A team of scientists at Nasa have confirmed that there is oxygen on the airless world of the Moon as they extract the life-sustaining element from lunar soil. The new milestone could go a long way in sustaining a longer mission on the Moon, which has no air.
Scientists at the Johnson Space Center extracted the oxygen from simulated lunar soil in a vacuum environment, paving the way for astronauts to one day extract and use resources in a lunar environment. They say that this oxygen could not only be used for breathing but also as fuel for transportation.
The extraction was part of the Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD), which was conducted in conditions similar to that on the Moon. The team created those environments by using a special spherical chamber with a 15-foot diameter called the Dirty Thermal Vacuum Chamber.
“This technology has the potential to produce several times its own weight in oxygen per year on the lunar surface, which will enable a sustained human presence and lunar economy,” Aaron Paz, CaRD project manager, said in a statement.
The team used a high-powered laser to simulate heat from a solar energy concentrator and melted the lunar soil simulant within a carbothermal reactor developed for Nasa. A carbothermal reactor is where the process of heating and extracting oxygen takes place. As the soil was heated, the team detected carbon monoxide using a device called the Mass Spectrometer Observing Lunar Operations (MSolo).
“Our team proved the CaRD reactor would survive the lunar surface and successfully extract oxygen. This is a big step for developing the architecture to build sustainable human bases on other planets,” Anastasia Ford, CaRD test director, said in a statement.