Thanks to NASA, humans are on the right track to return to the moon. The American space agency has been working for several months on the Artemis program which will bring American astronauts back to the lunar surface in 2024. NASA’s objective is to create a sustainable base there.
This time around, the US space agency will not be working alone. It will work in particular with the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out its mission. It also called on Houston-based company Intuitive Machines to design an instrument that will extract ice from to the moon to turn it into water. The use of resources available on site will greatly facilitate the installation of astronauts.
Today, we learn that ESA has signed a contract with the British company Metalysis. This company will have to put its technology at the service of the space agency to extract oxygen from moon dust.
Lunar regolith, a source of oxygen
This project is also part of the Artemis program. It will give astronauts direct access to a vital resource on the Moon. After analyzing samples of lunar regolith, ESA announced that it contains between 40 and 45% oxygen.
The space agency therefore turned to the company Metalysis to develop a technology capable of extracting oxygen. ESA has pledged to finance the work of the British firm for nine months. In a recent study carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, researchers at Metalysis announced that they were able to extract 96% of the oxygen from simulated lunar soil.
A promising project
The next step for Metalysis is to find a way to increase the yield and purity of oxygen. The extraction of this gas has many advantages. Indeed, according to the ESA, this process will also make it possible to obtain metal alloys which could be used in the manufacture of building bricks.
“This production process leaves behind a tangle of different metals. This is another avenue of research, to see which alloys would be most useful to produce from them. Could they be directly 3D printed, for example, or would they need some fine-tuning? “, explained Alexandre Meurisse, researcher at ESA.
According to him, “The precise mixture of metals will depend on where on the Moon the regolith was collected. There would be significant regional differences. “