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Making History: Japanese to deliver Israeli technology to mine oxygen, metals from lunar soil

This technical demonstration is a significant step for humanity’s vital route toward “live off the land” in areas other than Earth.

Helios’ technology to mine oxygen and metals from other planets’ soil, help establish a human base (illustration). Photo Haya Gold for Helios

Israeli space-tech startup Helios, the developer of technology to mine oxygen from lunar soil, to join Japan-based ispace’s second and third missions to the lunar surface to demonstrate its technology to produce oxygen and metals in-situ.

As humanity races back to the Moon in the next years to create permanent infrastructure on the lunar surface, one of the primary obstacles is the exorbitant cost of transporting anything from Earth to the Moon.

One of the most sought-after resources for cislunar space is oxygen, primarily used to refuel rockets and spacecraft because it accounts for over 70% of the propellant weight. As a result, the ability to manufacture oxygen on the Moon is critical to sustaining humanity’s growth beyond Earth.

“The technology we are developing enables the establishment of permanent bases away from Earth. In order not to have to endlessly transport equipment to the lunar station and cause life outside of Earth to operate under restrictive constraints, we need to look at things through the prism of infrastructure that can produce materials from natural resources,” said Jonathan Geifman, Helios’s co-founder and CEO.

Helios’ technology to mine oxygen from the Moon (illustration). Photo Haya Gold for Helios

The Japanese Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Mizushima Koichi, hosted a signing ceremony between the Israeli Helios and Japanese ispace to establish the initial agreement, as 2 Memorandum of Understandings (MoU), in which ispace may deliver Helios’ technology to the lunar surface onboard ispace’s lander by the end of 2023 and mid 2024.

Helios’ payloads, called Lunar Extractor – 1 and Lunar Extractor – 2 aims to demonstrate the production of oxygen and metals from the local resources. The lunar soil has over 40% oxygen by weight, locked in oxides and minerals. The Lunar Extractor -1 is designed to separate the oxygen from the soil using electrolysis. As byproduct, the reactor will produce metal that can be cast into a mold—what could be the first artifact to be produced on the Moon in human history.

This technical demonstration is expected to be a significant step forward in humanity’s vital route toward developing the ability to “live off the land” in areas other than Earth.

Takeshi Hakamada, Founder & CEO of ispace, said, “Utilizing the resources on the Moon is the natural conclusion and would lead to large economic impact for a cislunar ecosystem and eventually the sustainability of the Earth. ispace, as a pioneer in building the cislunar ecosystem, is honored to provide our lunar transportation service and assist Helios to demonstrate their technology on the Moon. We are very excited by their technology and we believe this effort will stimulate more players to enter this market.”

Avi Blasberger, Director of the Israel Space agency at the Ministry of innovation, science & technology returning to the moon and establishing a permanent base on it requires collaboration between countries and companies. The Israeli Space Agency welcome the cooperation between Ispace, a Japanese company, and Helios, an Israeli company, and hopes it will lead to further collaboration between the space agencies of the two countries. Returning to the moon will create significant business opportunities in the global space industry, and Helios and Ispace are an example of companies that will lead and be a key factor in this trend. The Israeli Space Agency supports and promotes Israeli space companies for them to become leading players in the growing global space economy, in addition to the contribution to the growth of the Israeli economy.

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