The complex challenge of creating oxygen on the moon to support human life
This demonstrator should test his ability to use resources In place (ISRU- In situ resource utilization), In this case oxygen production, in quantities required for future lunar colonies. For this he melted salt and theTo extract oxygen from the moon’s rock, or ” “.
In detail, the European Space Agency wants the demonstrator to extract 50 to 100 grams of oxygen from the lunar regolith, which is capable of extracting 70% of the oxygen present in a sample. Another restriction is that the demonstration must be held within 10 days. This restriction is explained by the ESA’s desire to control the costs of the demonstrator.Remember that the sun, on a lunar day, lasts 15 days. Due to lack of energy, the work will be turned off at night.
The site was awarded to Roger Ward, technical director of Thales Alenia Space in the UK.
Futura: Already have an idea of the extraction technique you want to test and use on the Thales Alenia Space Moon?
Roger Ward: The Thales Alenia Space Group extracts oxygen by electrolysis and molten salt using a UK-based metallization FFC process.
Futura: The use of electrolysis does not seem to be optimal. What do you think?
Roger Ward: Improving any process that operates on the Moon must take into account a variety of factors, beyond the efficiency of operation on Earth. This scheme continuously evaluates the design to determine the amount of oxygen produced compared to oxygen.And to power. We are well aware that any process that operates on the moon must be much less costly than delivering oxygen from the earth.
Futura: Should your protester take 50 to 100 grams of oxygen to test concept and technical choices?
Roger Ward: Beyond the “quantity of oxygen produced” aspect, our demonstrator aims to fully classify the function of the process on the moon.
Futura: But what performance do you aim for the operational unit? 300 to 400 liters of oxygen per kilogram of regolith?
Roger Ward: The payload concept is modular, scalable and primarily designed to demonstrate that technologies work and to improve the processes and materials used. Some of these processes and materials are new to the project, so the performance of a business segment cannot be published at this time.
Futura: What are the restrictions imposed by the European Space Agency?
Roger Ward: The focus is on demonstrating the process and technology that makes the oxygen produced on the moon cheaper than the oxygen carried from Earth.
Futura: What are the main difficulties in designing such equipment? Is gravity a major issue?
Roger Ward: TheNot the main challenge. The main challenges are lunar soil, or regolith and molten salt. Lunar regolith, unlike anything found on Earth, is produced in a vacuum by the bombardment of heavy particles. And conflict . In the absence of moisture and , The particles are so small that they are sometimes constantly charged and disconnected, making the regolith very sticky and very difficult to handle and process. The molten salt will be at a higher temperature, which is not much of a problem on Earth, but on the surface of the Moon, it is very difficult to use light space objects and vacuum. Therefore, to meet these two technological challenges (and many more), a program of technical experiments will be carried out on Earth, which will ensure that the devices and process operate in a representative environment as much as possible. The end for the start.