GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

Lunar soil has the potential to generate oxygen and fuel, a new Chinese study has revealed. Further elaborating on that, scientists have said, the lunar contains active compounds that can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and fuels. The study further pointed out the soil can be used to obtain hydrogen and methane, which can power equipment and habitation in the earth's satellite.

What

  1. The study comes at a time when several missions have planned to land on the moon in the next few years.
  2. NASA is trying to send astronauts to the Moon again under its Artemis mission. China also shares similar ambitions.
  3. Nanjing University's Yingfang Yao and his colleagues examined a soil sample to see if it could be used as a catalyst for a system that would convert carbon dioxide and water released by astronauts’ bodies into oxygen, hydrogen and other useful by-products like methane that could be used to power a lunar base.
  4. They first analysed their sample using techniques such as electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to identify catalytically active components of the soil.
  5. They found high levels of iron and magnesium-based compounds that could be useful in a reaction mimicking the photosynthesis that occurs in green plants.
  6. The researchers then tested the soil as a catalyst in various chemical reactions that would form part of a photosynthesis-like process to produce hydrogen and oxygen from CO2 and water.
  7. They found that the soil’s efficiency wasn’t as good as catalysts we have on Earth and isn’t currently good enough to generate products in sufficient quantities to support human life on the moon
  8. Thus, we propose a potentially available extraterrestrial photosynthesis pathway on the moon, which will help us to achieve a “zero-energy consumption" extraterrestrial life support system, the scientist suggested.