This is a huge leap forward, bringing humanity closer to being able to stay on the moon for a long time. Combined with lunar ice, it could even produce rocket fuel.
Scientists have successfully demonstrated the production of oxygen and metals from artificial moon dust – regolith. The process has been named ROXY (Regolith to OXYgen and Metals Conversion) and is believed to revolutionize human space exploration.
This breakthrough was made by an international group of scientists led by Airbus Defense and Space (Friedrichshafen, Germany), together with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technologies and Advanced Materials IFAM (Dresden, Germany), Boston University (Massachusetts, USA), as well as Abengoa Innovación (Seville, Spain).
The breakthrough came after two years of development, during a series of laboratory tests at Fraunhofer IFAM. Oxygen was extracted from a simulated lunar dust sample. This is the first step, but the path to the operating system is now clear. Oxygen is indispensable for any human activity in space, and this new ROXY production method, which directly uses moon dust, could revolutionize human activities on the lunar surface.
“This breakthrough is a massive leap forward – taking us one step closer to the holy grail of being able to sustain long term living on the Moon,” says Jean-Marc Nasr, head of space systems at Airbus. “ROXY is proof positive that collaboration between industry and world leading scientists can bring huge tangible benefits that will continue to push the boundaries of future exploration.”
ROXY enables the design of a small and economical plant for converting regolith to oxygen and metals, and is therefore ideally suited to support a wide range of future research missions. Requiring no additional materials or consumables from Earth – aside from the ROXY reactor itself – it could be the heart of an integrated value chain using additive manufacturing for a wide range of products to be made on the Moon.
These can be metals, alloys and oxygen. Combined with lunar ice, it would even be possible to produce rocket fuel from ROXY metal powder.