With the successful takeoff of the first mission of the Artemis Program and the advances in the Starship launch system, from which the HLS lander will be developed, we are getting closer to return to the moon. On this occasion, unlike what happened during the Apollo Program, we intend to stay for a long time.
But to achieve the colonization of our natural satellite we will have to overcome a huge number of challenges. One of them is the production of electricity. Blue Origin, the aerospace company of mogul Jeff Bezos, has been working on a promising alternative that could make it easier: building solar panels on-site.
Manufacture panels on the Moon, with what is on the Moon
The idea of making anything off Earth could become a very complex challenge, unless we could circumvent the need to move much of the necessary inputs in a spaceship at a distance greater than 300,000 kilometers. Blue Origin proposes to use the mineral resources of the Moon to facilitate the manufacturing process.
Let’s see, a research team from the company has managed to manufacture photovoltaic cells and electrical cables from a material that is chemically and mineralogically very similar to lunar regolith. This proposal, which is part of the “Blue Alchemist” program, has as its backbone a process known as “molten regolith electrolysis.”
Functional prototype of photovoltaic cell manufactured from simulated lunar regolith
As the company explains, the method makes it possible to separate the elements from oxygen, and thus produce iron, silicon and aluminum in a safe way. “Our reactor geometry, metal extraction approach, and material selection will enable sustained lunar operations,” Blue Origin says in a blog post.
A very important point, which they have not forgotten to mention, is that the process is capable of producing silicon with a purity of 99.99%, a very important level to manufacture photovoltaic cells that generate efficient electricity. The cells, they say, will be able to resist the degradation caused by lunar radiation.
Blue Origin, however, has decided to go a step further in its ambitious proposal. It ensures that since the method does not produce greenhouse gas emissions and does not require water or toxic elements, could be very beneficial for the inhabitants of the Earth. It remains to be seen, then, how these possibilities could materialize.
Images: Blue Origin
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