Moon’s Top Layer Can Provide Enough Oxygen for 8 Billion People for 100,000 Years

Moon’s Top Layer Can Provide Enough Oxygen for 8 Billion People for 100,000 Years

Moon’s Top Layer

New study to be believed, oxygen is not in gaseous form and researchers are trying to find ways to extract it. Moon’s Top Layer

The Moon’s top layer alone has enough oxygen to sustain 8 billion people for 100,000 years

Moon’s Top Layer

his article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Scientists seem to have found a solution to this problem. The Moon’s layer of rocks, called regolith, contains enough oxygen to sustain human life. If a new study is to be believed, the Moon’s Top Layer surface has enough oxygen to keep 8 billion, or 800 crore people alive for around 1,00,000 years.

However, this oxygen is not yet in a gaseous form and researchers are trying to find ways to sustainably extract it from these rocks for humans.

According to a report on meteorite information on the website of Washington University in St. Louis, the Moon’s regolith is made up of about 41-45 percent oxygen. Another report published in Space.com states that to extract usable oxygen from the Moon, scientists will have to undertake a process called electrolysis. 

On Earth, electrolysis is used to extract metals from their mineral ore and oxygen is a by-product. But on the Moon, oxygen will be the main product and the metal would be a potentially useful by-product.

Space research is one of the major fields of exploration today. Discoveries and speculations backed by technological advancements are opening up new vistas for human life. Amidst these endeavours, a lot of effort is being put to find the best way to produce oxygen on the Moon’s Top Layer.

The breadth of oxygen

Oxygen can be found in many of the minerals in the ground around us. And the Moon is mostly made of the same rocks you’ll find on Earth (although with a slightly greater amount of material that came from meteors).

Minerals such as silica, aluminium, and iron and magnesium oxides dominate the Moon’s landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but not in a form our lungs can access.

On the Moon these minerals exist in a few different forms including hard rock, dust, gravel and stones covering the surface. This material has resulted from the impacts of meteorites crashing into the lunar surface over countless millennia.

Some people call the Moon’s surface layer lunar “soil”, but as a soil scientist I’m hesitant to use this term. Soil as we know it is pretty magical stuff that only occurs on Earth. It has been created by a vast array of organisms working on the soil’s parent material — regolith, derived from hard rock — over millions of years.

The result is a matrix of minerals which were not present in the original rocks. Earth’s soil is imbued with remarkable physical, chemical and biological characteristics. Meanwhile, the materials on the Moon’s surface is basically regolith in its original, untouched form.

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