Prototype plant shows how astronauts could pull oxygen out of moondust


The Moon has no breathable oxygen – which obviously presents a hurdle for astronauts. There’s only so much we can take with us, so figuring out how to produce it there is crucial. Now, ESA researchers have created a prototype device that can make oxygen out of the most common thing on the Moon – dirt.

Moondust – more officially known as lunar regolith – has been studied extensively since samples were returned from the Apollo missions. Scientists were then able to reverse-engineer the stuff to figure out how future astronauts could put it to work, including by building bases out of baked bricks of regolith, and even using them to store heat for the long lunar nights.

These previous studies have revealed that oxygen is the most abundant element in lunar regolith, comprising 40 to 45 percent of its weight. The problem is, it isn’t exactly in a breathable form – the oxygen is locked away inside oxide minerals.