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STUDY: moon soil can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and thus support life in space

by Shailee Mishra

Date & Time: May 07, 2022 3:00 PM

Read Time: 2 minute

A study discovered that moon soil can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, raising the possibility that it could be used to support human life in space.

The study, published in the scientific journal Joule, discovered that moon soil contains active compounds that, when combined with sunlight and carbon dioxide, could be used to produce water, oxygen, and fuel to support life on a moonbase and enable further space exploration.

Yingfang Yao, a material scientist from Nanjing University in China and the lead author of the report, says, "Our strategy provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment."

"If we want to conduct large-scale extraterrestrial exploration, we'll have to think of ways to reduce payload, which means relying on as few supplies from Earth as possible and instead of using extraterrestrial resources."

Scientists have previously proposed extraterrestrial survival strategies, but the majority of them require energy sources from Earth.
The Perseverance Mars rover, for example, was powered by a nuclear battery despite carrying an instrument that can use carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere to produce oxygen.

This time, Dr. Yao and his colleagues hope to take advantage of the moon's two most abundant resources: solar radiation and soil, reducing the amount of material that must be transported into space.

"Extraterrestrial photosynthesis" system

The moon soil returned by China's Chang'E-5 spacecraft contained iron- and titanium-rich substances, according to a team of scientists. They are now working on a "extraterrestrial photosynthesis" system that will electrolyze water using moon soil.

Astronauts' carbon dioxide will be collected and combined with hydrogen produced by water electrolysis. According to the scientists, the process will produce hydrocarbons such as methane, which could be used as fuel, allowing for cost-effective human life on the moon.

The team hopes to put the system to the test in space on China's future lunar missions.

In light of significant effort devoted to manned deep space exploration, developing the lunar life support system for long-term exploration is of high technological importance and scientific interest," the report's authors wrote in their summary.

"The use of lunar in situ sources provides a fantastic opportunity to provide the material foundation for lunar habitation and travel."


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