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Technical Paper

Oxygen From Lunar Soils

We have conducted experiments on 16 lunar soils and 3 lunar volcanic glass samples to study the extraction of oxygen, an important resource for future lunar bases. The samples were chosen to span the range of composition and mineralogy represented in the Apollo collection. Each sample was reduced in flowing hydrogen for 3 hours at 1050°C. The dominant effect was reduction of Fe2+ (as FeO) in minerals and glass to iron metal, with concomitant release of oxygen. Oxygen extraction was strongly correlated with initial Fe2+ abundance but varied among mineral and glass phases. The experimental reduction of lunar soil and glass provides a method for assessing the oxygen production potential for sites on the lunar surface from lunar orbit. Our results show that oxygen yield from lunar soils can be predicted from knowledge of only one parameter, total iron content. This parameter can be measured from orbit by gamma ray spectrometry or multispectral imaging.
Technical Paper

Oxygen Production From Lunar Soil

We have conducted experiments to release oxygen from lunar soil samples, as part of a continuing study of lunar resource production. The 15 soils span the range of compositions in the Apollo collection. All were reduced in flowing hydrogen at temperatures of 900-1100°C. Oxygen yield is strongly correlated to initial iron oxide abundance, averaging 77% of total FeO. Oxygen release is relatively insensitive to mineralogy, with partial to total reduction of FeO in ilmenite, olivine, pyroxene, impact glass, and volcanic glass. The highest yields are from iron-rich mare soils and volcanic glass. These data provide “ground truth” for assessment of oxygen production from any lunar soil. Such assessment can be carried out from lunar orbit, using current data supplemented by observations from future missions.