Using the surface of the moon and Mars as oxygen farms, new equipment turns toxic soil out of oxygen

Due to the lack of protection by a thick atmosphere, the soil on the surface of Mars and the moon will be exposed to strong ultraviolet rays, producing reactive oxygen species that are highly toxic to humans. If no space suit is worn, the skin and lungs will be burned. But it’s not impossible to take them. Recently, the European Space Agency has invested in new research. A group of scientists is developing equipment that can detect reactive oxygen species on the surface of the moon and Mars, and convert them into oxygen.

In April last year, the Mars Oxygen In Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) device carried by NASA’s Perseverance rover produced oxygen from Mars for the first time, which can provide the breathing resources for human survival on Mars in the future, and even the rockets needed to return to Earth. of propulsion fuel.

However, the MOXIE device is only an experimental instrument. If humans can perform long-term missions on Mars, the size of the oxygen generator must be 100 times larger than that of the experimental instrument.

So the European Space Agency recently invested in funding to support the Greek Thales Alenia Space team to develop another device that can detect toxic reactive oxygen species in the soil of the moon and Mars, and can also convert these dangerous substances into oxygen.

On Earth, compounds with free chemical bonds such as superoxide, peroxide, perchlorate, etc. are relatively rare in the environment because water would destroy them, but the moon and Mars do not have much water and have a thin atmosphere , When the rough surface of the soil is directly exposed to strong ultraviolet rays, it is easy to generate reactive oxygen species, which not only destroys the remains of biological fossils, but also is extremely corrosive. .

The research ultimately points to a large-scale reactor that regularly extracts oxygen from the lunar/Mars soil, which the team calls “oxygen agriculture,” based on an estimated 1.2 hectares of land and exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays for several hours. It can provide the oxygen required for an astronaut to survive.

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