One Day Astronauts Will Be Breathing Oxygen Made From Rocks

A high-powered laser and carbothermal reactor located inside the testing chamber of NASA’s Carbothermal Reduction Demonstration (CaRD) at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Credits: NASA/Brian Sacco

When there’s a permanent base on the Moon, astronauts will need a way to replenish their oxygen supply. Fortunately, there’s an almost infinite amount of oxygen in the surrounding regolith, locked up the rocks and soil. The key would be to figure out a cost-effective way to extract it.

Now, NASA has demonstrated that they can harvest oxygen from the lunar regolith, even in the vacuum conditions of space. They used a device called a carbothermal reactor to successfully extract oxygen from a simulated lunar regolith, while also simulating the heat that would be produced by a solar energy concentrator.

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