Latest in Gear

Image credit:

ESA opens plant that turns moondust into oxygen

It could be key to a long-term human presence on the Moon.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 19, 2020
3 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Sponsored Links

ESA–A. Conigili

If humans are going to have a long-term presence on the Moon, they're going to need breathable air and rocket fuel -- and the ESA might just have a way to create both using the Moon itself. The agency is running a prototype plant that converts moondust (currently simulated, of course) into oxygen that could be used for air and fuel. The technique unlocks the high amounts of oxygen in regolith using molten salt electrolysis that superheats the dust and migrates the oxygen along the salt until it's collected at an anode. The basic process has already been used for metal and alloy production, but the ESA tweaked it to ensure oxygen was available to measure.

As that suggests, this process could have an upshot for Moon explorers by producing useful alloys to construct habitats or repair vehicles.

There's a lot of work needed before plants like this can go to the Moon. It needs to store oxygen instead of simply venting the gas. Likewise, scientists would need to determine what alloys would be the most useful byproducts. A Moon-worthy test plant should be ready by the mid-2020s, though, so it may just be a matter of time before explorers are producing air far from Earth.

In this article: esa, moon, moondust, regolith, science, space, tomorrow, gear
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Comment
Comments
Share
3 Shares
Share
Tweet
Share

Popular on Engadget

Amazon has eliminated single-use plastic at its Indian fulfilment centers

Amazon has eliminated single-use plastic at its Indian fulfilment centers

View
Ubisoft is giving away 'Watch Dogs 2' on PC this weekend

Ubisoft is giving away 'Watch Dogs 2' on PC this weekend

View
Facebook is shutting down its Pinterest-like experimental app

Facebook is shutting down its Pinterest-like experimental app

View
The best laptops to use for schoolwork and gaming

The best laptops to use for schoolwork and gaming

View
LG's $1,300 sound bar is made to match the new GX series OLEDs

LG's $1,300 sound bar is made to match the new GX series OLEDs

View

From around the web

Page 1Page 1ear iconeye iconFill 23text filevr