Alongside advances in space exploration, we’ve recently seen much time and money invested into technologies that could allow effective space resource utilization. And at the forefront of these efforts has been a laser-sharp focus on finding the best way to produce oxygen on the Moon.
In October, the Australian Space Agency and NASA signed a deal to send an Australian-made rover to the Moon under the Artemis program, with a goal to collect lunar rocks that could ultimately provide breathable oxygen on the Moon.
Although the Moon does have an atmosphere, it’s very thin and composed mostly of hydrogen, neon, and argon. It’s not the sort of gaseous mixture that could sustain oxygen-dependent mammals such as humans.
That said, there is actually plenty of oxygen on the Moon. It just isn’t in a gaseous form. Instead it’s trapped inside regolith – the layer of rock and fine dust that covers the Moon’s surface.
If we could extract oxygen from regolith, would it be enough to support human life on the Moon?
The breadth of oxygen
Oxygen can be found in many of the minerals in the ground around us. And the Moon is mostly made of the same rocks you’ll find on Earth (although with a slightly greater amount of material that came from meteors).
Minerals such as silica, aluminum, and iron and magnesium oxides dominate the Moon’s landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but not in a form our lungs can access.
On the Moon these minerals exist in a few different forms including hard rock, dust, gravel, and stones covering the surface. This material was resulted from the impacts of meteorites crashing into the lunar surface over countless millennia.
Some people call the Moon’s surface layer lunar “soil”, but as a soil scientist I’m hesitant to use this term. Soil as we know it is pretty magical stuff that only occurs on Earth. It has been created by a vast array of organisms working on the soil’s parent material – regolith, derived from hard rock – over millions of years.
The result is a matrix of minerals which were not present in the original rocks. Earth’s soil is imbued with remarkable physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. Meanwhile, the materials on the Moon’s surface is basically regolith in its original, untouched form.
One substance goes in, two come out
The Moon’s regolith is made up of approximately 45 percent oxygen. But that oxygen is tightly bound into the minerals mentioned above. In order to break apart those strong bonds, we need to put in energy.
You might be familiar with this if you know about electrolysis. On Earth this process is commonly used in manufacturing, such as to produce aluminum. An electrical current is passed through a liquid form of aluminum oxide (commonly called alumina) via electrodes, to separate the aluminum from the oxygen.
In this case, the oxygen is produced as a byproduct. On the Moon, the oxygen would be the main product and the aluminum (or other metal) extracted would be a potentially useful byproduct.
It’s a pretty straightforward process, but there is a catch: it’s very energy hungry. To be sustainable, it would need to be supported by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon.
Extracting oxygen from regolith would also require substantial industrial equipment. We’d need to first convert solid metal oxide into liquid form, either by applying heat, or heat combined with solvents or electrolytes.
We have the technology to do this on Earth, but moving this apparatus to the Moon – and generating enough energy to run it – will be a mighty challenge.
Earlier this year, Belgium-based startup Space Applications Services announced it was building three experimental reactors to improve the process of making oxygen via electrolysis. They expect to send the technology to the Moon by 2025 as part of the European Space Agency’s in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) mission.
How much oxygen could the Moon provide?
That said, when we do manage to pull it off, how much oxygen might the Moon actually deliver? Well, quite a lot as it turns out.
If we ignore oxygen tied up in the Moon’s deeper hard rock material – and just consider regolith which is easily accessible on the surface – we can come up with some estimates.
Each cubic meter of lunar regolith contains 1.4 tonnes of minerals on average, including about 630 kilograms of oxygen. NASA says humans need to breathe about 800 grams of oxygen a day to survive. So 630 kg oxygen would keep a person alive for about two years (or just over).
Now let’s assume the average depth of regolith on the Moon is about 10 meters, and that we can extract all of the oxygen from this. That means the top 10 meters of the Moon’s surface would provide enough oxygen to support all 8 billion people on Earth for somewhere around 100,000 years.
This would also depend on how effectively we managed to extract and use the oxygen. Regardless, this figure is pretty amazing!
Having said that, we do have it pretty good here on Earth. And we should do everything we can to protect the blue planet – and its soil in particular – which continues to support all terrestrial life without us even trying.
John Grant, Lecturer in Soil Science, Southern Cross University.
Former US Air Force fighter pilot: UFOs use Star Trek-style warp drive
A former US Air Force fighter pilot asserts that he has deciphered
the method behind the extraordinary maneuvers of UFOs, reports dailystar.co.uk.
the past two decades, numerous military encounters with these enigmatic
crafts have been reported, prompting a significant investigation by the
One of the most renowned sightings occurred during the
USS Nimitz encounter, where fighter pilots witnessed a UFO descending
from 28,000 feet to just above sea level in less than a second.
astonishing movement would imply that the craft reached a staggering
speed of 19,000 miles per hour, a velocity that would be fatal to any
to Chris Lehto, a former USAF pilot, the craft exhibits two key
characteristics: it moves without inertia, essentially lacking weight,
and it accelerates at an incredibly rapid pace without affecting its
believes that the explanation lies within a technology that seems
straight out of science fiction. He proposes that the answer to the UFO
enigma lies in the Alcubierre Drive, a theoretical interstellar engine
conceptualized by Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre in 1994.
Alcubierre Drive employs a form of “space warp” technology, reminiscent
of what has been depicted in episodes of Star Trek. By bending space, a
craft inside a “warp bubble” could potentially travel at or even
surpass the speed of light without violating the known laws of physics.
the Alcubierre Drive remains a hypothetical concept with challenges to
overcome, Chris notes that the required energy is no longer believed to
be unattainably large.
filed with the US patent office outline the potential workings of the
drive, as well as another groundbreaking technology theorized by
American aerospace engineer Salvatore Pais.
Pais suggests that
high-powered rotating magnets could theoretically eliminate an object’s
inertia, and he has filed a patent for a starship based on this
However, Chris maintains skepticism regarding Pais’
theory. He explains that while Pais’s patent applications for the US
Navy attracted attention for their potential energy-related
applications, doubts have been raised about their feasibility. There is
speculation that they may be scams, pseudoscience, or disinformation
intended to mislead adversaries of the United States.
rival theories propose that the “Tic Tac” UFO is a classified Pentagon
project testing similar advanced technologies discussed by Chris.
A Mysterious Earth-Like Planet Has Just Appeared in Our Solar System, Scientists Say
Scientists say they have found evidence of a new Earth-like
planet that has suddenly appeared in our Solar System and is orbiting
Physicists, including those from the National Astronomical Observatory
of Japan, said the planet is likely to be the mysterious ‘Planet Nine’
that was hypothesised to exist in the far outer edges of the Solar
Several studies in the past have suggested there is likely an
undiscovered planet beyond the Kuiper Belt – a stellar disk of materials
such as asteroids, space rocks, comets around the Sun in the outer
Solar System past the orbit of Neptune.
Independent.co.uk reports: In the new research, published recently in The Astronomical Journal, scientists
found that some of the objects in the Kuiper Belt behave in a way
indicative of the presence of a small planet among them.
One such object, they said, is about 500 astronomical units (AU) from
the Sun, where 1 AU is the distance between the Sun and the Earth.
In comparison Neptune is at a distance of 30 AUs from the Sun.
Some of these were also found to have “odd” orbits suggesting they
are being pull by the gravity of a cosmic entity larger than those that
typically influence such objects.
Computer simulations run by the scientists indicate that the most
likely explanation for the observations was another hidden planet in the
“We predict the existence of an Earth-like planet,” researchers wrote in the study.
“It is plausible that a primordial planetary body could survive in
the distant Kuiper Belt as a Kuiper Belt planet (KBP), as many such
bodies existed in the early solar system,” they added.
If such a planet exists, researchers say it would have a mass about
1.5 to 3 times that of Earth with an inclination of about 30 degrees.
They say the theorised planet’s orbit would likely place it between 250 and 500 AU from the Sun.
Researchers say the discovery of such a planet close to the Kuiper
Belt can unravel new constraints on planet formation and evolution.
“In conclusion, the results of the KBP scenario support the existence
of a yet-undiscovered planet in the far outer solar system,” scientists
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