Tag Archives: permafrost

Extraction of Water from Polar Lunar Permafrost with Microwaves – Dielectric Property Measurements

Remote sensing indicates the presence of hydrogen rich regions associated with the lunar poles. The logical hypothesis is that there is cryogenically trapped water ice located in craters at the lunar poles. Some of the craters have been in permanent darkness for a billion years. The presence of water at the poles as well as other scientific advantages of a polar base, have influenced NASA plans for the lunar outpost. The lunar outpost has water and oxygen requirements on the order of 1 ton per year scaling up to as much as 10 tons per year. Microwave heating of the frozen permafrost has unique advantages for water extraction. Proof of principle experiments have successfully demonstrated that microwaves will couple to the cryogenic soil in a vacuum and the sublimed water vapor can be successfully captured on a cold trap. The dielectric properties of lunar soil will determine the hardware requirements for extraction processes. Microwave frequency dielectric property measurements of lunar soil simulant have been measured.

Extraction of Water from Lunar Permafrost

Remote sensing indicates the presence of hydrogen rich regions associated with the lunar poles. The logical hypothesis is that there is cryogenically trapped water ice located in craters at the lunar poles. Some of the craters have been in permanent darkness for a billion years. The presence of water at the poles as well as other scientific advantages of a polar base, have influenced NASA plans for the lunar outpost. The lunar outpost has water and oxygen requirements on the order of 1 ton per year scaling up to as much as 5 tons per year. Microwave heating of the frozen permafrost has unique advantages for water extraction. Proof of principle experiments have successfully demonstrated that microwaves will couple to the cryogenic soil in a vacuum and the sublimed water vapor can be successfully captured on a cold trap. Dielectric property measurements of lunar soil simulant have been measured. Microwave absorption and attenuation in lunar soil simulant has been correlated with measured dielectric properties. Future work will be discussed.

Microwave Extraction of Water from Lunar Regolith Simulant

Nearly a decade ago the DOD Clementine lunar orbital mission obtained data indicating that the permanently shaded regions at the lunar poles may have permanently frozen water in the lunar soil. Currently NASA’s Robotic Lunar Exploration Program, RLEP-2, is planned to land at the lunar pole to determine if water is present. The detection and extraction of water from the permanently frozen permafrost is an important goal for NASA. Extraction of water from lunar permafrost has a high priority in the In-Situ Resource Utilization, ISRU, community for human life support and as a fuel. The use of microwave processing would permit the extraction of water without the need to dig, drill, or excavate the lunar surface. Microwave heating of regolith is potentially faster and more efficient than any other heating methods due to the very low thermal conductivity of the lunar regolith. Also, microwaves can penetrate into the soil permitting water removal from deep below the lunar surface. A cryogenic vacuum test facility was developed for evaluating the use of microwave heating and water extraction from a lunar regolith permafrost simulant. Water is obtained in a cryogenic cold trap even with soil conditions below 0 C. The results of microwave extraction of water experiments will be presented.