Extracting oxygen from the surface of the moon is enough to feed 8 billion people for 100000 years
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scene in the moon Kravis crater
although the moon does have an atmosphere, it is very thin and mainly composed of hydrogen, neon and argon, This is not the kind of gas mixture that can maintain the oxygen dependent survival of mammals such as humans
in other words, there is actually enough oxygen on the moon, but it is not gaseous. Instead, the oxygen is trapped in the layers of rock and dust that cover the moon’s surface. If we can extract oxygen from it, will it be enough to sustain humans living on the moon
oxygen can be found in many minerals around us, and the moon is mostly composed of rocks that can be found on earth. Minerals such as silicon, aluminum and iron magnesium oxides help shape the landscape of the moon. All these minerals contain oxygen, but not in the form that humans can breathe directly
on the moon, these minerals exist in several different forms, including hard rock, dust, gravel and stones covering the lunar surface. This material is the result of meteorites hitting the surface of the moon for thousands of years
some people call the surface of the moon “lunar soil”, but many soil scientists disagree. They believe that soil is a very magical thing, which only exists on earth. It is the parent material of a large number of organisms in the soil (weathering layer, derived from hard rock) has been formed for millions of years.
the result is the formation of a mineral matrix that is not found in the original rock. The earth’s soil has significant physical, chemical and biological properties. At the same time, the material on the lunar surface is basically the original weathering layer.
the surface of the moon is composed of about 45% oxygen, but the oxygen is different from the above The minerals mentioned are closely bound together. In order to break these strong ties, we need to invest energy.
astronauts deploying instruments on the lunar surface
if you know electrolysis, you may be familiar with this process. On earth, this process is usually used for Manufacturing, such as the production of aluminum. Current flows through the electrode through liquid alumina (commonly known as alumina) to separate aluminum from oxygen.
in this case, oxygen appears as a by-product. On the moon, oxygen will be the main product, extracted aluminum (or other metals) Will be a potentially useful by-product. This is a fairly simple process, but there is one problem: it is very energy consuming. In order to maintain sustainable development, it needs to be supported by solar energy or other available energy on the moon.
extracting oxygen from the lunar surface also requires a lot of industrial equipment. We need to first convert solid metal oxides into liquids, or by heating , or by combining heating with solvents or electrolytes. We have such technology on earth, but moving such equipment to the moon and generating enough energy to run it will be a huge challenge.
earlier this year, space applications services, a start-up company headquartered in Belize, announced that three experimental reactors were being built to change They expect to put the technology on the moon by 2025 as an in situ resource utilization (ISRU) of the European Space Agency Part of the mission.
so, when we really successfully complete the above preparations, how much oxygen can the moon actually provide? It turns out that the amount is very large. If we ignore the oxygen bound in the moon’s deeper hard rock materials and only consider the weathering layer that is easily accessible on the surface, we can get a rough figure.
average per cubic meter The surface of the moon contains 1.4 tons of minerals, including about 630kg of oxygen. NASA says that humans need to breathe about 800 grams of oxygen a day to survive. Therefore, 630kg of oxygen can sustain a person’s life for about two years.
assuming that the average depth of the lunar regolith is about 10 meters, and we can extract all oxygen from it, which means that the surface of the moon will improve Provide enough oxygen to feed all 8 billion people on earth for about 100000 years. It also depends on how we extract and use oxygen effectively. Anyway, this figure is quite amazing