Over 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong predicted thatduring the lifetime of his generation, people will live on lunar research bases, just as they do in Antarctica. But, as we know, he was mistaken - the Apollo program was curtailed, and since then, for a long time, humanity has not returned to the issue of exploring the Moon. However, 10 years after the death of the legendary astronaut, NASA decided to return to the satellite. It is even planned to land people in 2025 as part of the Artemis program. Moreover, this will be only one of the first stages of a large-scale mission, which involves the creation of lunar bases. But, before proceeding with the construction of infrastructure, scientists need to solve a number of problems. One of them is the extraction of water on the Moon, so as not to deliver it from the Earth.
Is there water on the moon
For a long time, science believed that there was no water on the moon,but many recent studies suggest otherwise. Earlier we said that scientists began to repeatedly find traces of water in samples of lunar soil.
In addition, at the end of the 2000s, manysatellite data began to indicate the presence of water on the sunlit surface of the moon. True, it was impossible to prove this, so the presence of ice on the lunar surface remained only an assumption. Now, the Institute of Geology and Geophysics of the Chinese Academy has reported that China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft has detected water on the surface of the moon, i.e. H2O molecules.
But this is not the only evidence of the presence of water.on the earth satellite. Prior to this, in 2020, NASA reported that the SOFIA infrared observatory had captured signals of different wavelengths corresponding to water molecules. And initially, scientists assumed that water is available only in hard-to-reach craters located near the poles of the moon. However, a NASA study suggests that water is also present on other parts of the satellite.
Is this water enough to provide lunarbases? There is not enough information on this. It should be borne in mind that for people to live, you will need a constant stable source. And it must be accessible. People may simply not be able to extract water from the craters at the poles and deliver it to the bases.
One of the ideas proposed by scientists ismelting moon dust using microwaves. All the necessary equipment necessary not only for the synthesis of water, but also for the general habitation of people on the Moon, according to scientists, can be created using 3D printers.
Can water on the moon be extracted from the soil?
Extraction of water on the moon is a much more important taskfor the construction of lunar bases than it might seem at first glance. The fact is that the delivery of 1 kg of any cargo into space costs about 1 million dollars. Accordingly, it will be very expensive to deliver water from the Earth.
“If we can find resources for life on land, we will reduce the size of the backpack that we take with us,” says Simeon Barber, a fellow at Open University.
The issue of extracting water on the moon at the present timethe team of Open University is engaged. Scientists propose to extract a vital resource from the lunar soil. But how is this even possible? Professor Mahesh Anand, who is leading the work, has been studying samples of lunar rock and dust (lunar regolith) collected during the first Apollo missions for more than a decade.
As a result, he was able to discover in the regolithhigh oxygen content, and this is already half the battle, or rather, half the water molecule. If you add hydrogen to it, then theoretically you can get water. That is, the Open University team proposes to synthesize water through a chemical reaction. It is much easier and faster than extracting it from craters.
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But in order to develop an effective technologysynthesis of water from the lunar regolith, scientists need to get more information about it. Therefore, the team developed a special apparatus for drilling rocks, selecting and analyzing them for the presence of water. The device will be delivered to the moon in early 2023.
According to the scientists themselves, robotic missions -this is an important first step towards the development of technological infrastructure on the Moon. “Before sending people there, we need to understand the environment,” says Simeon Barber, one of the authors of the study.
Needless to say, the technology developed forextraction of water on the Moon, can later also be applied to other planets. In addition, the work of scientists has already found application on Earth. Microwave technology has shown high efficiency in extracting valuable materials from mine waste. That is, it can be used not only for the extraction of water, but also for other chemical elements.