How Can Lunar Soil Help People Live on the Moon?

© NASANASA lunar outpost concept
NASA lunar outpost concept - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.05.2022
Although scientists have already proposed lots of strategies for extraterrestrial survival, most of them require energy sources which are supplied from Earth. A study conducted by Chinese researchers is expected to add to resolving the challenge.
It seems that the much-cherished idea of the Moon’s colonisation is now becoming more realistic. Chinese scientists have discovered chemicals in the lunar soil that can transform carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and hydrocarbons such as methane, which can then be used as fuel.
How did they track these chemicals? The researchers from Nanjing University explained that the lunar samples were brought back by China's Chang'e-5 spacecraft, that returned to Earth in mid-December 2020.
In the study published in the journal Joule, the scientists argued that the samples contain iron- and titanium-rich substances, which could be used in a chemical reaction mimicking the photosynthesis that occurs in green plants.
“So what, and what is the point in such a discovery?” one may ask. The matter is that the lunar find is expected to help the scientists improve the so-called “extraterrestrial photosynthesis” strategy.
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This is something that pertains to using no external energy except sunlight to produce a variety of desirable products such as water, oxygen, and fuel that could support life on a possible Moon base, according to the researchers.
Yao Yingfang of Nanjing University says that the scientists “use in-situ environmental resources to minimise rocket payload”, and that their strategy “provides a scenario for a sustainable and affordable extraterrestrial living environment”.
He predicted that the near future would see “the crewed spaceflight industry developing rapidly.”

“But if we want to carry out the large-scale exploration of the extraterrestrial world, we will need to think of ways to reduce payload, meaning relying on as little supplies from Earth as possible and using extraterrestrial resources instead,” Yao pointed out.

What about the challenges that the scientists are now grappling with in light of the new discovery? They admit that the main challenge pertains to the fact that catalytic efficiency of lunar soil is weaker than catalysts on Earth, which is why they currently consider melting the lunar soil into a nano-structured material as part of efforts to resolve the problem.
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