There are many, many dangers that future human explorers will face on Mars, and one of the most worrisome are toxic chemicals found in Martian soil or regolith, but these chemicals aren’t just a hindrance to exploration – they may also be key to producing usable oxygen on a planet that is Carbon dioxide has the majority of the atmosphere, according to a digitartlend report.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is developing a device that can detect chemicals called reactive oxygen species, and these come from sources such as perchlorate, salts found on the surface of Mars that are known to cause thyroid and other health problems in humans, and there are two main reasons To discover such chemicals: first, to make sure explorers don’t come into contact with them, and secondly, to make sure the oxygen they can release is not strewn as a sign of life.
However, this detector can have other useful applications as well. “The exciting aspect is that this technology can be used for more than just superoxide detection,” ESA Materials and Process Engineer Malgorzata Holynska explained in a statement.
The project, supported by the European Space Agency’s Technology Development component, will include the initial design of a large-scale reactor device to periodically extract oxygen from the soil, what we call “oxygen farming”.
Then, the solar ultraviolet radiation will replenish the oxygen supply within hours. It is estimated that an area of 1.2 hectares (3 acres) would produce enough oxygen to keep one astronaut alive.”
However, this cutting-edge technology is difficult to test.
There are already simulations of Martian soil, created to research based on what we know about the composition of the regolith there. However, for safety reasons, this simulator has been removed from the hazardous chemicals, which are necessary for testing.
So the team is creating their own regolith simulator, as well as using samples from Martian and lunar meteorites. The team says it plans to apply to NASA to see if they can get actual lunar samples from the Apollo missions to test on, too.
Dr Ioannis Markopoulos, president of 01 Mechatronics, which plans to produce a prototype detector, said: ‘The goal is for the prospecting detector to be smaller than a paperback that astronauts will likely find useful across the full range of any mission to the Moon and Mars.
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