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Nasa scientists successfully extract oxygen from lunar surface

"This is a big step for developing architecture to build sustainable human bases on other planets," says Nasa engineer

By Web Desk
April 28, 2023
An undated photograph of the moon. — Twitter/@NASASpaceSci
An undated photograph of the moon. — Twitter/@NASASpaceSci 

Scientists from Nasa — in a major development in space exploration activities — have been able to extract oxygen from regolith (lunar soil), which will allow space explorers to use the surface of the moon as a launch pad for future activities.

According to Nasa, a Houston team at the Johnson Space Center separated life-sustaining oxygen from a lunar soil simulation with the help of a high-powered laser to create a carbothermal reaction. For the first time ever, the oxygen was removed within a vacuum environment.

The Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) experiment could be a base for producing oxygen gas for breathing alongside its uses for transport propellers.

"Our team proved the CaRD reactor would survive the lunar surface and successfully extract oxygen," Nasa engineer Anastasia Ford said.

She further stated: "This is a big step for developing the architecture to build sustainable human bases on other planets."

A high-powered laser and carbothermal reactor located inside the testing chamber of NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center. — Nasa
A high-powered laser and carbothermal reactor located inside the testing chamber of NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center. — Nasa

Nasa has been planning for a long to establish the moon as its operational base for space exploration activities. The Artemis mission is aimed to take humans back to the moon in 2025 after fifty years.

Humans last time put a step on the moon in 1972.

The recent success in the oxygen extraction experiment is regarded at readiness level six which means it is all set to be tested in real space.

Aaron Paz, a senior engineer at Nasa noted that "the technology has the potential to produce several times its own weight in oxygen per year on the lunar surface, which will enable a sustained human presence and lunar economy."

(L-R) Astronauts Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Hammock Koch celebrate after being selected for the Artemis II mission who will venture around the Moon during a news conference held by NASA and CSA at Nasa Johnson Space Centers Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, on April 3, 2023. — AFP
(L-R) Astronauts Jeremy Hansen, Victor Glover, Reid Wiseman and Christina Hammock Koch celebrate after being selected for the Artemis II mission who will venture around the Moon during a news conference held by NASA and CSA at Nasa Johnson Space Center's Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, on April 3, 2023. — AFP

Earlier in April, Nasa named four astronauts that will fly to the moon on the Artemis II mission — the first crewed lunar flight of the program.

Nasa has already concluded the Orion spacecraft flight — an uncrewed test —which flew the Moon and returned to Earth in November 2022.