It is now possible to produce water on the surface of the Moon thanks to a chemical-physical process that allows oxygen to be extracted from regolith, the lunar sand. The experiments were conducted by the Politecnico di Milano and Ohb Italia, Prime Contractor, as part of the Isru (In-Situ Resource Utilization) demonstration mission, a project by and financed by ESA, the European Space Agency and with the important contribution of Asi, Italian Space Agency. It is a long-term program of human colonization of the Moon and involves the local use of the lunar resources. The research group, led by Professor Michèle Lavagna, used a prototype plant built and installed in the laboratories of the Department of Aerospace Sciences and Technologies of the Politecnico, thanks to the different skills present in the University and to Ohb Italia’s system skills. The researchers explain that “by feeding the plant with sand simulating the polar lunar soil, it was possible to produce the expected quantity of water, extracting oxygen from the oxides present in the minerals that make up the soil of our satellite”. The thin layer of dusty sand that covers the Moon actually contains minerals that are also found on Earth allowing the use of chemical transformation processes known in terrestrial industrial applications. The ability to produce water on site, and therefore oxygen and hydrogen, represents a key step for the next human missions on our satellite, as these are fundamental elements for supporting the life of a crew for prolonged periods; Furthermore, this production capacity frees future lunar bases from the use of open-cycle systems that require continuous supply from Earth, simplifying logistics and reducing costs related to the transport of materials. “The result obtained by the Politecnico di Milano and Ohb Italia – says Michèle Lavagna of the Politecnico di Milano – opens up new stimulating perspectives in the field of lunar exploration and a permanent and sustainable human presence. It is a process that presents innovative elements. of purely Italian origin which places our country in a position of international importance in the scenario of the forthcoming extra-terrestrial human exploration activities “. “To travel in Space and create housing bases on the Moon and Mars, we need to create ready-made technologies to support the human presence” underlines the CEO of Ohb Italia, Roberto Aceti. “Producing oxygen in the lunar environment testifies how the close collaboration between science, university research and businesses can lead to the development of an industrial product of the highest technological value capable – observes the engineer – of changing the prospects of our future as well as reconfirming our very high skills. space of Italy on the world stage “.
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