Lunar Breakthrough? Moondust To Oxygen Conversion To Help Astronauts Breathe, Make Fuel


Progressing in making the moon more human-friendly, scientists at the  European Space Agency (ESA) recently have come up with a method to convert moon dust into

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:

Progressing in making the moon more human-friendly, scientists at the  European Space Agency (ESA) recently have come up with a method to convert moon dust into oxygen, according to international reports. Scientists reportedly claim that the converted oxygen can be used by astronauts for breathing and fuel production. Moreover, reports state that there are plans to use moondust to produce bricks for habitats and melt them to use for 3D printing.

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How was moondust converted to oxygen?

Moondust - called regolith, covers almost all surfaces of the moon, according to scientists. They further reveal that regolith is known to contain about 40 to 50% oxygen in the form of oxides which is not immediately usable. Hence,  researchers at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) have been probing how to extract oxygen using a technique called molten salt electrolysis.

The method which was originally developed by a company called Metalysis, involves heating regolith with molten calcium chloride salt to a high temperature in a metal basket, as per reports. Then electric current is passed through the basket so the oxygen can be extracted. Moreover,  usable metal alloys are obtained as a by-product of this method.

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Home of Fungi on Moon & Mars

NASA's Ames research centre at Silicon Valley, California has been prototyping technologies that could grow habitats on the Moon, Mars, and beyond out of life things like fungi and mycelia. The project aims for a future where human explorers can carry with them a compact habitat built out of lightweight material with dormant fungi that will last on long journeys to places like Mars. By following a basic structure and adding water to it, the fungi will be able to grow around the designed framework into a fully functional human habitat. 

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The habitat will also be designed in a way that it will not contaminate the environment and habitat on Mars. NASA's mission is supported through its innovative advanced concepts program and comes under the field of synthetic biology. NASA in its article also states that it is still a very long way from creating livable habitats for Mars, but it is in the phase of its early-stage research by currently experimenting with fungi.

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