With its Artemis program, NASA wants to do more than just touch boots on the moon and come home. It wants a sustainable human presence there. To pull that off, humanity will need to use local resources. That's where Jeff Bezos-founded space company Blue Origin hopes to contribute with its Blue Alchemist solar project.
Blue Origin hasn't reached Earth orbit yet, but it's already planning ahead for life on the moon. In a statement last week, the company said it's been developing "solar cells and transmission wire from regolith simulants" since 2021 and has now made a working solar cell prototype. Basically, this is about turning moon dust into solar power.
Lunar regolith is the surface material found on the moon. It's very different than what we think of as typical Earth soil, the sort of stuff you grow plants in. Lunar regolith is a mix of dust, rock chips, minerals and glass. A lunar regolith simulant is a stand-in for the real thing that's designed to mimic the composition and properties of what's on the moon.
To get the materials for the solar cell, Blue Origin used a combination of extreme heat and electricity.
"Using regolith simulants, our reactor produces iron, silicon and aluminum through molten regolith electrolysis, in which an electrical current separates those elements from the oxygen to which they are bound," the company said. Silicon is a key ingredient for the solar cell, and this process creates an extremely pure version of silicon suitable for solar. Blue Origin says its method doesn't require the toxic chemicals that are often used for silicon purification on Earth.
The solar cell is covered with glass made from byproducts of the regolith electrolysis process. Blue Origin estimates solar cells made with this method could last for over a decade.
Blue Origin isn't the only organization that wants to make moon dust useful. NASA is working on melting lunar regolith and turning it into oxygen -- much like Blue Origin is doing. Oxygen is needed for human life support systems and also for powering future rocket launches from the moon. NASA is even studying the possibility of building an oxygen pipeline on the moon.
NASA has already backed Blue Origin as way to get future missions off this rock. The agency selected Blue Origin's New Glenn rocket for a Mars spacecraft mission that could launch as soon as next year.
Blue Origin's vision of unlimited solar power on the moon is a long way from reality, but the working prototype solar cell shines a light on a path forward. "Although our vision is technically ambitious, our technology is real now," the company said.
Why don't we just make solar equipment here and send it to the moon? It's expensive and difficult to ship gobs of gear to the lunar surface, so it makes sense to harness the resources that are already there. The same goes for future ambitions of human outposts on Mars. The moon could be a testbed for technologies that enable a sustainable human presence beyond Earth.
In-form Man United striker Marcus Rashford is a major doubt, after limping off with an injury against Barcelona. The Carabao Cup final between Man United and Newcastle takes place at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, Feb. 26. Livestream the Man United vs. Newcastle game in the USSunday's Carabao Cup final is streaming exclusively live in the US on ESPN Plus. Livestream the Man United vs. Newcastle game in the UKLive broadcast rights for the Carabao Cup final in the UK are with Sky Sports. Livestream the Man United vs. Newcastle game in CanadaIf you want to stream the EFL Cup final live in Canada, you'll need to subscribe to DAZN Canada.27 days ago CNET
A recall issued this week for several defective air fryers by kitchen brand Cosori might have you wondering if air fryers are safe. The answer is yes: A properly functioning air fryer shouldn't pose a risk of fire, but dirty air fryers or those left on for too long and unattended could make problems of the flammable sort. Clean your air fryer basket after every useDavid Watsky/CNETAir fryers are great for cooking chicken wings, mozzarella sticks (OK, not all air fryer food is healthy) and other crave-able snacks. Some air fryers are rather quiet, so this also ensures the air fryer isn't still running or won't be accidentally turned on by a passing cat or the curious hand of a toddler. If you're trying to avoid nonstick altogether, there are options for air fryers with nonstick baskets, such as that has a glass basket.29 days ago CNET
Boldly going on one last journey, Patrick Stewart returns as Starfleet's beloved captain for Star Trek: Picard season 3. You can stream Star Trek: Picard Season 3 on Paramount Plus in the US and UK, and for free on City TV in Canada. Here's when Star Trek: Picard Season 3 will be released on the platform:Stream it in the US from Thursday, Feb. 16 . Both offer Star Trek: Picard Season 3. How to watch Star Trek: Picard Season 3 in CanadaCanadian Trekkies have two options for watching the final installments of Picard.1 month ago CNET
Below, dig into all the pizza promotions and other heart-shaped offerings available for Valentine's Day 2023. California Pizza KitchenCPKGet your favorite California Pizza Kitchen pizza on a heart-shaped crispy thin crust for no extra charge. Jet's PizzaJet's PizzaJet's Pizza is going overboard on Valentine's Day with four-slice heart-shaped pizzas, heart-shaped Jet's bread and heart-shaped Cinnamon Stix, available at all locations nationwide. Heart-shaped pizza: LOVEHeart-shaped Jet's bread: BEMINEHeart-shaped Cinnamon Stix: SWEETKrispy KremeKrispy KremeKrispy Kreme has four-heart shaped doughnuts for Valentine's Day 2023. Pizza HutPizza Hut's heart-shaped pizza arrives unsliced, the company said, "because we don't break hearts -- we bake them."1 month ago CNET
Super Bowl isn't just about the action on the football field. Among the attention-grabbing ads that ran during Super Bowl 2023, there are always a bunch of trailers, teasers and TV spots for new movies and TV shows coming to your screens soon. Old-school Nintendo fans will love how it pays homage to The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, which ran from 1989 until December 1991. The Super Bowl spot gives us another look at the danger that awaits, before the movie comes out March 10. The Super Bowl TV spot gives us another look.1 month ago CNET
Robin Jones/Getty ImagesWest Ham United vs. Chelsea: When and where? Livestream the West Ham United vs. Chelsea game in the UKPremier League rights in the UK are split between Sky Sports, BT Sport and Amazon Prime Video. The West Ham vs. Chelsea game is exclusive to BT Sports -- showing on its BT Sports 1, BT Sports 1 HD and BT Sports Ultra channels. Livestream the West Ham United vs. Chelsea game in CanadaIf you want to stream the clash at the London Stadium live in Canada, you'll need to subscribe to FuboTV Canada. Livestream the West Ham United vs. Chelsea game in AustraliaFootball fans Down Under can watch this match on streaming service Optus Sport, which is showing every single Premier League game live in Australia this season.1 month ago CNET
By the newest season of You -- season 4 -- Joe is a different man. After experimenting with being a devoted husband and father in season 3, Joe is back to single life. NetflixSubverting repetitive patterns and finding new directions to pull Joe in is the name of the game for season 4. Weirdly, the main point of difference that makes season 4 of You seem a little off isn't Joe's transformation. Kate isn't exactly relatable, unless you're an obscenely rich heiress living in an Architectural Digest feature-worthy apartment.1 month ago CNET