JERUSALEM, April 20 (Xinhua) -- The Israeli startup company Helios has developed a new technology to produce oxygen from the moon's soil, the Israel Space Agency (ISA) at the Ministry of Science and Technology said Tuesday.
"The new technology may pave the way for setting up permanent human settlements on the moon, living off its soil," ISA said.
It will also allow deep-space missions, such as manned missions to Mars, it added.
The new technology addresses the enormous cost of carrying oxygen from Earth, while about 45 percent of the moon's soil mass is made of oxygen.
According to the company, the cost of transporting one kg of oxygen from Earth to the moon exceeds 100,000 U.S. dollars.
Oxygen is needed for astronauts' breathing and especially for the movement of spacecraft and rockets in space as oxygen is necessary for the combustion process.
The new technology, developed by Helios with the support of the ISA, is supposed to produce oxygen and various types of metals using a reactor fed with moon sand.
The separation process is based on electrolysis, i.e. decomposition of oxides by means of an electric current.
First, the regolith is melted at a heat of 1,600 degrees Celsius, before an electric current is passed through the lava, releasing the bubbling oxygen.
The by-products made in this process, such as iron, silicon and aluminum, can also be used for human settlement on the moon.
The new system is scheduled to embark on two space missions over the next three years, according to the ISA.