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Data from a NASA-funded study has found that the Moon is slowly shrinking. As its molten core cools, the Moon is gradually contracting and shrivelling, like a grape drying out to a raisin. As this happens, faults along the Moon’s surface have appeared. These faults − along with moonquakes that can last for hours − mean that the Moon is vulnerable to landslides. And although researchers are quick to reassure us that this does not affect us back on Earth, they do have concerns about the safety implications of such landslides for future lunar visitors.

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Despite the risks involved, the scientific discoveries that can be gained from lunar exploration are enormous. In fact, rock samples from the Apollo missions are still revealing their secrets to this day. Scientists at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) recently discovered solar-wind hydrogen in a lunar soil sample. It is the first time that scientists have demonstrated detection of hydrogen-bearing species within vesicles in lunar samples. The discovery could revolutionise space travel, enabling future astronauts to one day use water on the Moon for life support and rocket fuel. “Hydrogen has the potential to be a resource that can be used directly on the lunar surface when there are regular or permanent installations there,” said Dr Katherine D. Burgess, Geologist in NRL’s Materials Science Technology Division. “Locating resources and understanding how to collect them prior to getting to the Moon is going to be incredibly valuable for space exploration.”

A number of initiatives aimed at exploring and developing the Moon are already underway, such as the US-led Artemis III project, which is the first Artemis mission that plans to have a crewed lunar landing. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is also considering a concept for a plant that will utilise water resources on the Moon to produce hydrogen and oxygen for use by spacecraft and manned facilities. JAXA plans to study the concept of the entire system of a lunar in-situ resource utilisation (ISRU) plant and conduct ground demonstration this decade, with the aim to construct a demonstration plant in the 2030s and launch full-scale operation by 2040.

At the end of last year, JGC Corp. was selected by JAXA for the conceptual study of the ISRU plant. JGC will carry out demonstration planning as well as a study of a pilot plant concept. And in anticipation of the fact that such a plant may be built on the Moon, JGC also announced that it has teamed up with Yokogawa Electric Corp. to develop a control system that will support the ultra-remote communications required for the operation of plants on the lunar surface. Such a system, which will be located at a ground station, would need to take into account constraints such as the communication delay between the Earth and the Moon. By the end of this year, the two companies plan to complete a study that will identify an optimal solution for a control system that will be able to handle ultra-remote communications.

Back on Earth, there are a number of other exciting developments underway to ensure that hydrogen plays a key role in decarbonising our energy systems. You can find out more about a range of innovative solutions and exciting projects within the pages of this issue. And if you are picking up a copy of this magazine at the World Hydrogen Summit in Rotterdam, I’d like to encourage you to sign up for a free subscription to Global Hydrogen Review by scanning this QR code.

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