Lunar soil can be turned into air and fuel for lunar astronauts

Since the first moon landing in 1969, the goal of establishing lunar colonies has long been a goal. After all, the moon has water that we can use, underground caves that we can live in, and now, it seems, a natural way to create a stable source of energy that can usable. With NASA’s upcoming Artemis project aimed at returning humans to satellites, it’s more important than ever to research and invest in resources for a long-term stay on the moon.

Fortunately, scientists in China may have discovered something that could help. In a new study published Thursday in the journal Joule, the researchers found that chemical compounds in lunar soil have the ability to turn carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and hydrocarbons like methane that can be used as fuel. The team says these chemical compounds could act as catalysts – substances that speed up chemical reactions – to form an extraterrestrial photosynthetic system. This means that lunar soil along with sunlight could be used to support permanent lunar colonization.

It goes back to a major challenge to sustainable ways of living beyond Earth: resources. You can only carry so much breathable air, usable water, and fuel for a space mission. While scientists are developing technologies that allow astronauts to tap into planetary resources, those technologies still require elements from home. For example, NASA’s Perseverance rover carries a device called MOXIE that can turn carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen long enough to keep an astronaut healthy for 10 minutes. But the MOXIE still relies on electrical power from an on-board, earth-built battery.

Then it is important to create like Swiss Family Robinson and survive entirely on the resources the moon can provide. In the new study, the researchers found that this may happen through iron, magnesium and titanium rich substances found in lunar soil. They found that these substances – along with ultraviolet light – are capable of producing carbon dioxide and oxygen from water. The catalysts also produce small amounts of hydrogen, methane and methanol. Each of these elements and chemicals could be used to create the fuel and other materials needed for the long-term colonization of the Moon.

“We use on-site environmental resources to minimize missile payloads, and our strategy provides a scenario for an affordable and sustainable extraterrestrial habitat,” said Yingfang Yao, engineer. professor at Nanjing University and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

Although catalysts are not as effective as those on Earth, Yao and his team are working to improve their design. They envision a future where lunar life support and fuel systems combine the power of lunar soil with sunlight, which is abundant. These “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” systems could be a means for a continuous supply of oxygen as well as for refueling space vehicles or rocket launchers.

“In the near future, we will see the manned spacecraft industry develop rapidly,” said Yao. “Just like the ‘Age of Sails’ in the 1600s when hundreds of ships hit the seas, we will enter the ‘Age of Space.’ But if we’re going to do large-scale extraterrestrial exploration, we’ll need to think of ways to reduce the payload, that is, to rely on as little of Earth’s supplies as possible, and use it instead. use of extraterrestrial resources”. Lunar soil can be turned into air and fuel for lunar astronauts


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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