As you might expect, supporting human life on the Moon requires breathable oxygen. But there’s only so much that astronauts can take with them, so figuring out how to produce it there is essential. Now, a British company is working on extracting oxygen from moon dust, which could be invaluable for future lunar settlers.
Metalysis, a materials technology firm from England, recently announced that it has partnered with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop its method of extracting extraterrestrial oxygen from materials found on the satellite’s surface.
In addition to being able to extract 96% of oxygen from lunar soil — also known as regolith — the process also leaves behind metals that could be used for building settlements on the moon.
The project is an important step forward in the development of a sustainable source of oxygen on the moon and to providing the fuel for spacecraft landing on and launching from its surface. Producing such valuable resources on-site could also significantly reduce the payload mass that would be needed to be launched from Earth.
“One of the main drivers of the project is to be able to use the resources that are already on the moon, rather than having to take them from Earth to the moon — there’s quite a cost associated with taking things into space, and the more you can utilize what’s there, the better,” said Ian Mellor, the company’s managing director.