Published On: Tue, Apr 27th, 2021

Project Helios Will Make Oxygen from Moon Dust

This will make space travel easier.

An illustration depicting lunar soil being heated to generate oxygen. (Photo Helios: Haya Gold)

Israeli startup Project Helios plans to make breathable air, oxygen, from the soil of the moon. Yes you heard that right: Someday people in space might be breathing air generated from space rocks.

Do you want to go to the moon some day? Or travel through space? Sorry, but you probably never will. But future generations will think of space travel as something simple like how we think of flying today. But to get to that future there is still a great deal of work needed in developing the proper technologies.

Two things that make life possible on Earth which have not been found yet elsewhere are a breathable atmosphere and water. Oxygen is not only needed for people to breathe, it is also needed for combustion, fire. Look at any footage of a rocket being launched and see all the smoke and fire that gets emitted from its engine. This would not happen in space because there is no air. So this poses a problem for launching rickets from the moon.

Some day they will launch space flights from space stations or the moon. This will save on fuel and be easier since the ships will not need to break free of Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. But then there is that problem again of no air.

This is where Project Helios comes in. It will find a way to extract the oxygen from lunar dust so that it can feed the combustion of rockets and so forth.

Founded in 2018, HELIOS’ says that its vision is to enable human presence beyond Earth. Multi-planetary space-crafts are around the corner, it says. The next link in the chain are technologies to utilize resources on site, first to drastically reduce the cost of initial establishment, and eventually to enable the colonists to “live off the land”.

While embarking from earth onto celestial destinations, the weight limitation of equipment and materials to be sent to space due to high cost restricts chances for long term extraterrestrial human presence. Only by adopting in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) technologies we can realize the vision to set permanent Lunar and Martian bases.
Helios will actualize this vision by developing the technology to separate and collect the vast amount of oxygen and metals available in the surface soil of Mars and The Moon and set the infrastructure for future colonists.

Helios CEO Jonathan Geifman. (Photo Helios: Haya Gold)

It will do so with its Molten Regolith Electrolysis Reactor. The MRE Reactor will separate the abundant oxides found all over the Martian and Lunar surfaces into oxygen and various metals such as Iron, Aluminum, Silicon and more. The second phase will include the preparation of the raw materials into further utilization – storing the oxygen and process the metals into usable parts.

“The technology we are developing is part of a chain that enables the establishment of permanent bases away from Earth. In order to not have to endlessly transport equipment to the space station in the Moon’s atmosphere, and causing life outside of Earth to operate under restrictive constraints, we need to look at things through the prism of infrastructure that is capable of producing raw materials from natural resources,” Jonathan Geifman, Helios’s founder and CEO said.

Avi Blasberger, who serves as the Director-General of the Israeli Space Agency, added: “Helios’ revolutionary technology, which is supported by the Israeli Space Agency, can produce oxygen from the lunar soil without consumable raw materials from Earth. This will lower launch costs, expand payloads, and enable long-term human presence in deep space. We expect a trend of returning to the Moon following NASA’s Artemis program, which will create significant business opportunities in the space industry in general, and in the Israeli space industry specifically. Helios, which was established in an innovation workshop held by the Israeli Space Agency during Israel’s Space Week, is an excellent example of a groundbreaking Israeli startup that will lead and serve as a key player in the industry.”

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