Scientists are developing a device to detect reactive oxygen species on the Moon and Mars

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A team of Greek scientists is developing a device to detect “reactive oxygen species” on the Moon and Mars and extract oxygen from them to allow astronauts to breathe indefinitely.

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), areas of highly oxidizing material could be reactive enough to produce chemical burns to astronauts’ unprotected skin or lungs.

Reactive oxygen species can come from metal salts of superoxides, peroxides or perchlorates – the latter having indeed been detected by NASA’s Mars Phoenix lander in the Martian Arctic in 2008, says Professor Christos Georgiou from the Biology Department of the University of Patras.

“Mapping these highly reactive species will be important to Martian and Lunar colonists, not only because their presence will be hostile to human settlement and crop growth, but also because they will obliterate all traces of possible biofossils. Martians, so these areas can be ruled out of the search for life on Mars.

Supported by ESA, the project includes the initial design of a large-scale reactor device to periodically extract oxygen from the ground, called oxygen farming. The team estimates that an area of ​​1.2 hectares (3 acres) would produce enough oxygen to sustain a single astronaut.

“We certainly see the potential for a terrestrial fallout as well; with these harmful reactive oxygen species prevalent on Earth, the potential is there for a very good marketing tool,” says Dr Ioannis Markopoulos, head of the company 01 Mechatronics, which plans to produce a prototype detector.

More information can be found here.

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