UK firm to turn moon rock into oxygen and building materials
When astronauts return to the moon in the next decade, they will do more with the dust than leave footprints in it.
A British firm has won a European Space Agency contract to develop the technology to turn moon dust and rocks into oxygen, leaving behind aluminium, iron and other metal powders for lunar construction workers to build with.
If the process can be made to work well enough, it will pave the way for extraction facilities on the moon that make oxygen and valuable materials on the surface, rather than having to haul them into space at enormous cost.
“Anything you take from Earth to the moon is an added weight that you don’t want to carry, so if you can make these materials in situ it saves you a lot of time, effort and money,” said Ian Mellor, the managing director of Metalysis, which is based in Sheffield.
Analyses of rocks brought back from the moon reveal that oxygen makes up about 45% of the material by weight. The remainder is largely iron, aluminium and silicon. In work published this year, scientists at Metalysis and the University of Glasgow found they could extract 96% of the oxygen from simulated lunar soil, leaving useful metal alloy powders behind.
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