Artemis, you know, is NASA's ambitious program to return humans to the Moon. Its goal goes far beyond a simple "return", but aims to create a constant presence on the Moon, complete with infrastructure for human permanence.
This will require precious resources, including oxygen, which is crucial for human survival.
Oxygen on the Moon
Doctor Peter A. Curreri, senior NASA scientist and Chief Science Officer for Lunar Resources, Inc. proposes the concept of a pipeline to transport oxygen. The south pole of the Moon contains large quantities of ice: solid water awaits us in craters where sunlight never reaches. Ice that can be melted and separated into hydrogen and oxygen.
A pipeline could be much more effective at bringing oxygen from the South Pole to the equatorial regions of the Moon, areas which given the greater exposure to the sun are likely to be preferred for human settlements. It's an idea that gets a lot of attention from NASA, and has given rise to a project (in phase one) called the "Lunar South Pole Oxygen Pipeline (LSPOP)".
Oxygen, as mentioned, is essential for human survival: it is needed for housing, vehicles, life support systems, even for rocket fuel.
Transporting large quantities of oxygen from the South Pole to the equator can be complicated and resource-intensive, such as vehicles and tanks. "The Lunar South Pole Oxygen Pipeline (L-SPoP) would eliminate the need for vehicles and other resources while reducing costs and risks," Curreri writes.
This lunar pipeline represents a real revolution for the Artemis program and will make it possible to obtain oxygen in situ more efficiently and less expensively.
Some more data
In terms of advantages, there seems to be no doubt: this type of pipeline does not cause environmental problems or damage. In the event of a leak, the oxygen simply flies out.
Lunar Resources is exploring plans for an initial 5km pipeline (built in sections on the Moon and then assembled on site). It would carry oxygen from production sources (such as the molten regolith electrolysis extraction site), to the oxygen storage/liquefaction facilities of the future lunar base.
NASA estimates that Artemis will initially need 10.000 kg of oxygen per year, and LSPOP would be able to supply it at a flow rate of about 2 kg/hour. The system would require a minimal amount of energy to operate and would be very reliable, with an expected life of more than 10 years in the lunar environment.
Data and schemes that sound suggestive today but in a few decades, looking back, we could discover that they were simply the first days in which man returned to the Moon to stay there.