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Oxygen can be found in many of the minerals in the ground around us. And the Moon is mostly made of the same rocks you’ll find on Earth (although with a slightly greater amount of material that came from meteors). Minerals such as silica, aluminium, and iron and magnesium oxides dominate the Moon’s landscape. All of these minerals contain oxygen, but not in a form our lungs can access. The Moon’s regolith is made up of approximately 45% oxygen. But that oxygen is tightly bound into the minerals mentioned above. In order to break apart those strong bonds, we need to put in energy. You might be familiar with this if you know about electrolysis. On Earth this process is commonly used in manufacturing, such as to produce aluminium. An electrical current is passed through a liquid form of aluminium oxide (commonly called alumina) via electrodes, to separate the aluminium from the oxygen. In this case, the oxygen is produced as a byproduct. On the Moon, the oxygen would be the main product and the aluminium (or other metal) extracted would be a potentially useful byproduct. It’s a pretty straightforward process, but there is a catch: it’s very energy hungry. To be sustainable, it would need to be supported by solar energy or other energy sources available on the Moon. Extracting oxygen from regolith would also require substantial industrial equipment. We’d need to first convert solid metal oxide into liquid form, either by applying heat, or heat combined with solvents or electrolytes. We have the technology to do this on Earth, but moving this apparatus to the Moon – and generating enough energy to run it – will be a mighty challenge.