Thu, May 26, 2005
And You Can Make A Small Fortune In The Process
Need a little fresh air? As the US follows President George W.
Bush's plan for the Moon, Mars and Beyond, fresh air becomes a
precious commodity. That's why NASA is behind a new contest: Find a
way to mine breathable air on the moon and win $250,000.
On second thought, that moon money is barely enough to buy a
Mooney. But consider the patents you could win in the process.
Even though the moon is void of atmosphere, the rocks and soil
on its surface appear to have all the raw materials. The process of
extracting breathable air from those rocks is called "regolith
mining," and President Bush said last year that it will be vital in
furthering his plans for space exploration.
Regolith mining would provide the "raw materials that might be
harvested and processed into rocket fuel or breathable air. With
the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be
ready to take the next steps of space exploration -- human missions
to Mars and to worlds beyond," said the president, quoted by
"Oxygen extraction technologies will be critical for both
robotic and human missions to the moon," said former astronaut Sam
Durrance, now executive director of the Florida Space Research
Institute. He, too, was quoted by Cable News.
Regolith mining isn't a new concept -- but it's never produced
sufficient quantities for a lunar colony or even a long-term
robotic mission. So NASA has added it to the Centennial Challenges,
launched two months ago, aimed at spurring technology developments
necessary to furthering US space goals.
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