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Moon Space Science

Lunar Oxygen and Water Production Tech Tested 56

savuporo writes "NASA and its industry partners organized a two-week lunar in-situ resource utilization field test in Hawaii. The tested machines included a few different rovers and prototype plants for generating oxygen and water from lunar regolith. Astrotoday has a picture gallery and a video report. This follows on the heels of the recent ESA lunar robotics challenge event held on Tenerife, which tasked student teams to build a lunar robot that would be able to search for water ice in lunar polar craters."
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Lunar Oxygen and Water Production Tech Tested

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  • Because if there's one place on Earth that resembles the surface of the moon, it's Hawaii.

    • by martin_henry ( 1032656 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @12:58PM (#25819495)
      It was just a single click to view the photo gallery (2 clicks to get to individual photos) and you couldn't even bother to do that. If /. had membership cards, I'd ask for yours.

      I thought the test area resembled the surface of the moon to a large degree.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Volcanic ash would be a pretty good substitute for lunar dust. Sounds fine to me, and you could chill on the beach when the work day is done.

      • Yeah, but how do you know the water plant isn't cheating and leaching water out of the atmosphere?

        It's a great photo-op, and a nice setting to meet vendors, but it's not much of a test of how something would actually perform on the lunar surface, where it is much hotter (or much much colder) and a lot more dusty than anywhere on Earth.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by lmckayjo ( 532783 )

          How do they know where the water is from? Because of previous lab tests, regolith simulant sample checks before and after processing (using the same spectrometers that flew on the Mars Exploration Rovers, among others), and hopefully because of sound engineering from the outset.

          I agree that nowhere on Earth is a great analog to Lunar climate/weather, but the point is to put these prototypes into a dusty, windy environment, drive the sample-delivering rovers around, etc. For this test in Hawaii they needed t

      • There's not much (or any really) volcanic ash erupted from Hawaii-type shield volcanoes. The "ash" that is the lunar and hawaiian regolith (the dust and dirt seen in the linked photos) is material from the underlying and surrounding rocks that's broken down.

        The surface of Hawaiian lava fields is indeed legitimately similar (some might say almost identical) to the moon, however.

        The moon's crust is comprised entirely by igneous rocks. The lunar "seas" are entirely basalt. Hawaiian-type lava fields are also en

        • I'm not a geologist, but I wonder if the term "volcanic ash" is used appropriately here. What you see in the pictures from the Hawaii test site is most certainly tephra, or material rather violently ejected from a volcano. For these tests NASA isn't interested in pahoehoe or a'a lava flows, which are altogether too "rocky" and not composed of the sharp sand-like fragments (of all different sizes, but mostly very small) that are similar to those that dominate the moon (and much of Mars).

          Some of the confusion

          • Right. I agree and some of what I wrote was not clearly stated. However, I did also say that it's not volcanic ash, which agrees with you. I don't say what it actually is, of course, which is the problem, and you are correct. Thank you for clarifying many of the points in my post, which to a geologist certainly would seem incoherent and incorrect!

            Reading what I wrote earlier again I see that I don't really get to some of the points I'm trying to make. It was late :) My discussion of aa vs. pahoehoe is to po

    • Because if there's one place on Earth that resembles the surface of the moon, it's Hawaii.

      Well sure, parts of it do. It's a volcano you know, not all rainforests and beaches and sun-bronzed natives.

      As to why they chose specifically Hawaii instead of some other location suitably representative, well, the answer is the rainforests, beaches, and sun-bronzed natives.

      • by Shag ( 3737 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @02:41PM (#25821285)

        Yup! Scientists - particularly those in space science - long ago realized that Hawaii was a good political analog for anywhere really far away of volcanic origin, like other bodies in space.

        The Brits snicker to this day about how they persuaded their government to build the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) out here, more or less guaranteeing themselves twice-a-year trips to Hawaii.

        Of course, the last several years it's been easier than ever, with a president in office who just might believe you if you say "yes, sir, Hawaii is very much like the moon."

        • Of course, the last several years it's been easier than ever, with a president in office who just might believe you if you say "yes, sir, Hawaii is very much like the moon."

          He might also believe very much if you said Las Vegas was like the moon.

    • What are the givens to this problem?

      -NASA wants extensive use capabilities.
      -ITAR restrictions make it so that US entities would rather stay in the US rather than go through the paperwork of going elsewhere.
      -Volcanic ash tends to be similar in abrasiveness, chemistry, and agglutinate size to lunar regolith.
      -The presence of flora and fauna should be minimized.

      Taking these into consideration, you get Hawaii and the Southwest. Since the volcanoes in the Southwest are dormant, their ash has had more time to erod

      • It was a joke, already.

        • I didn't take offense or anything... just wanted to bring some logic into the minds of someone who might not understand. This topic hits pretty close to home, since we have a prototype PILOT sitting in our lab downstairs.

          Just wait until next year's field tests. Everything's gonna get scaled up. Lots. =)

  • Moonbase (Score:5, Funny)

    by Gizzmonic ( 412910 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @12:55PM (#25819433) Homepage Journal

    Evil villains, bookmark this article! Your dream of a secret moonbase is about to come true!

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You FOOL!
      You have just taken the "secret" part out of the equation by broadcasting my dastardly plan to teh internets!!! /em presses big red button to immediately execute the perpetrator. /em promotes nearest henchman to fill in the newly opened position of research analyst.

    • I dunno, I think I might prefer the secret moonbase if it was in Hawaii.
  • silly scientists

  • You think the rover got some regolit in a hand and crushed it until it got water, but he actually crushed a piece of cheese!

    Next, he'll throw another regolith really far. But it will actually be a bird!

  • It'd be much cheaper just to go to the Quik-e-mart that just opened up there.

  • by mfh ( 56 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:15PM (#25819829) Homepage Journal

    I think transforming the Moon would be a really positive step for our species. Call it a test, call it our first expansionary mission. Also, if we can get a jump on terraform technology, and since it's only 2008, then we have about 40000 years before the galactic senate approaches us for our assistance in matters concerning the Orions. That's plenty of time to configure a few necessities for species survival, which are notably as follows:

    1. Getting everyone on the planet to work together towards a common goal.
    2. Stopping the real infidels (you know the ones from other planets creating dissent so they can throw us off our game)
    3. Developing and improving faster methods of space travel. The time it takes to get to an enemy home world is the only hope in a quick victory for Mother Earth!
    4. Socks. We need better socks. It's very cold in space.
    5. Our energy weapon program is going smoothly. Keep it up. In 40000 years, our technology should definitely surpass that Death Star planetary destruction capability.
    6. Rapid data transmission is going smoothly. Keep it up. By 42008, we should be sending and receiving entire clusters of units anywhere in the known universe, and beyond.
    7. Deployed rover technologies are doing better than expected. We managed to get so much out of the mars mission that future missions with our new stealth invisibility technology should make Mother Earth a candidate for the Galactic Senate. By 42008, we should be looking at microscopic alteration technology weapons that can change our enemies into friends... which is just where we want them before we destroy them.
    8. We need to stop letting these wars erupt on our soil. Perhaps better diplomacy? Perhaps a global government would be better? Personally a hive mind might be the way to go... that way we can quell the dissent with the brute force of the Great Mother. By 42008, a hive mentality could be intelligent to surpass anything feasible regarding survival in the universe, so that we can all start working on self actualization.
    9. We need to continue unlocking human awareness -- it holds the key to a new path of glory... which would surpass the hive mind and create an exit.


  • by ryanw ( 131814 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @01:48PM (#25820457)
    It looks like "if" it happens to stumble upon water there would most likely be mud causing the holes in the wheels to fill up with gunk. Also I could see rocks and things getting stuck on this holes causing it to weigh more and change how it operates. []
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Nah, tweels are brilliant. you get more surface area (like a pneumatic tire if you have a stiff tweel, or more like a track with more flexible ones), but with the single point of rotation and simple mechanism of a wheel. yes, stuff gets in them, just like a regular wheel on a car, but it falls out nicely and doesn't weigh too much. expect to see more of them soon. also, scarab has regular wheels as well - they also went to hawaii. (and yes, ive seen the tweels up close, in person, on scarab)
    • If they stumble upon "water" in a vacuum, they have a bigger problem then the tweel. They will be in an area in which our known physics is all wrong. Water does not exist in a vacuum.
  • The two oxygen/water producing setups tested out here weren't exactly of the "let's scale up and terraform!! w00t!!!" type...

    In fact, they are more likely to be refined and *reduced* in size, to be able to go to the moon sometime in the next 10-15 years, and put out enough gas (stored under compression, or liquified) to support a crew of 4-6 humans for several months.

    Nothing about giant pressure domes or atmosphere-building just yet... this stuff is way more practical than that.


  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:32PM (#25823007)
    I doubt that the moon is totally cold all the way to the core, so could one not just drill down till you get into a level that is warm enough to have liquid water/oil/gas?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by holmstar ( 1388267 )

      Yeah, so let's round-up some rough-necks and send them to the moon to start drilling.

      As an added bonus, if we ever find that the moon is going to suddenly crash into the earth, we can have them drop some nukes down the holes and blow the whole thing to bits.

      I wonder if we could get Aerosmith write a song about them...

    • The moon is no colder than earth, on average. But I think the problem is that water can't exist as a liquid in vacuum, regardless of temperature. This is why we're looking for water (ice) in the permanently dark craters near the poles.

      • They're also doing all this ISRU testing to make water from the soil underfoot, or at the least get oxygen out of it to breathe. If there was liquid water, or even water ice near the surface, this would all be totally redundant.


"It ain't over until it's over." -- Casey Stengel