While scientists around the world are exploring the Moon to find ways to maintain a sustainable human presence, researchers from China have argued that lunar soil has the potential to generate oxygen and fuel. They say the Earth on the Moon contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuel. These findings suggest that soil on the lunar surface may be used to obtain hydrogen and methane, which may propel equipment and habitation on the Moon. They can also lead to a breathtaking atmosphere in our nearest heavenly neighbor.
There has already been a renewed interest in exploring the Moon, with several missions planned to land on the lunar surface in the coming years. In fact, NASA is once again trying to send astronauts to the moon during its Artemis mission. The US space agency intends to use the Moon as a gateway to send humans further into space, including Mars. China also has such ambitions.
The Chinese researchers suggested in their study, published in the journal Joule, to design a system that takes advantage of lunar soil and solar radiation to make oxygen and carbon dioxide. They called it the “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” strategy.
Nanjing University’s materials scientists Yingfang Yao and Zhigang Zou came to this conclusion after analyzing the lunar soil brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft. They found that the sample contained compounds, including iron-rich and titanium-rich substances, that could act as a catalyst to make oxygen and carbon dioxide.
In addition to oxygen and carbon dioxide, the proposed system will also produce hydrocarbons such as methane, which can be used as fuel. The researchers said the strategy uses no external energy but sunlight.
Several ways have previously been proposed to maintain a sustainable human presence on the Moon, but almost all of them require energy sources to be transported there from Earth. This strategy significantly increases the cost of alien survival.
Meanwhile, Chinese researchers say they are trying to test the system during China’s future manned Moon missions.