A team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has successfully extracted oxygen from simulated lunar soil in a vacuum environment for the first time in history, using a high-powered laser to create a carbothermic reaction.
„Our team has demonstrated that the CaRD reactor will survive on the lunar surface and successfully extract oxygen“, said Anastasia Ford, an engineer at NASA.
“This is an important step in developing the architecture needed to build sustainable human bases on other planets.”
Establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon is one of the long-term goals of NASA’s Artemis mission, which will see the first astronauts return to the lunar surface as early as 2025.
The success of the latest experiment means that the oxygen harvesting technology has reached readiness level six, meaning it is ready to be tested in space.
„The technology has the potential to produce several times its own weight in oxygen per year on the lunar surface, which will allow for a sustained human presence and a lunar economy.”said Aaron Paz, senior engineer at NASA.
Earlier this month, NASA announced the four astronauts who will venture around the moon as part of the Artemis II mission, which will be the program’s first manned spaceflight.
During the 10-day flight test, the astronauts will travel in the Orion spacecraft, launched aboard NASA’s huge Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. They will be the first astronauts to fly near the Moon in more than 50 years.
The US space agency has already completed an unmanned test flight of the Orion spacecraft, during which it flew around the Moon and returned to Earth in November 2022.
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