NASA scientists show that water can be extracted from lunar soil with a simple 1000W microwave

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An article from yesterday gives more good news regarding the extraction of water from the soil on the Moon, as NASA scientists have been able to extract water quite easily from simulated lunar soil in a simulated lunar environment simply using the power of a 1000W standard microwave. The advantage of using microwaves to heat the regolith is that it heats the soil from the inside out, and the simulated vacuum of the environment also helped push the water to the surface. In two minute using a microwave to cook the soil some 95% of the water had left the soil and been extracted for use.

Apparently this test has only been performed on simulated soil with permafrost which would only be present in the permanently shadowed craters at the poles, but the results are still positive for the prospect of working with standard lunar soil as well. The experiment published yesterday shows that a single 1000W microwave could create nearly a ton of water per year. With the ability for robots on the surface of the Moon to be remotely controlled from Earth the easiest process in setting up a lunar outpost would seem to be sending a few of these to the surface ahead of time to prepare for the arrival of astronauts through the extraction of water and perhaps some simple construction - creation of a landing pad to avoid kicking up excess amounts of dust, for example.

While we're at it, here's the intro to the movie Contact. While the scale is inaccurate (an accurate scale would mean having the Solar System disappear within the first second or two and would probably just confuse everybody as it would look like nothing was happening) it's still a great visualization of just how much there is to explore.

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