NASA is edging ever closer to a future where humans can inhabit the Moon – by providing a steady source of oxygen.
The lunar south pole is shaping to be a source of natural oxygen. There, astronauts found an abundance of ice that future settlements could use to extract oxygen and water for breathing, drinking, and making rocket fuel.
One of the latest proposals comes after Peter Curreri, Chief Science Officer at Lunar Resources Inc., noticed a few holes in NASA’s original plan.
The space team initially envisioned a future where ice found in the lunar south pole would be transported around the Moon in compressed gas tanks or stored in dewars.
“The process of moving this oxygen on rovers is more energy intensive than the extraction process and is thought to be the MOST expensive aspect in obtaining in-situ oxygen for use on the Moon considering the long distances a resource extraction area will be from a human habitat or liquefication plant,” explained Curreri.
As a solution, it was proposed that instead of transporting the gas, a pipeline – titled the Lunar South Pole Oxygen Pipeline (LSOP) – will run through the Moon and connect to NASA’s ice extraction hub, which is located in the lunar south pole. This will give future lunar colonies constant access to oxygen. It will also cut costs and save energy in terms of having to transport the goods around.
Initial testing for the LSPOP includes a three-mile concept version. If the project is greenlit, NASA will manufacture it in sections on the Moon before it is fully assembled.