When it comes to cost-saving exercises NASA should consider, harvesting water from the moon to cut down on rocket fuel costs may be one of the less commonly suggested ones. But that doesn't mean that it wouldn't work, apparently.
New Scientist reports on plans to microwave lunar soil to release water molecules trapped within, allowing vapor to rise, condense as frost on a metal plate placed above the soil, and then collected by thirsty astronauts. The theory, put forward by Edwin Ethridge of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and William Kaukler of the University of Alabama, could give astronauts drinking water or, more impressively, be used as the first stage in a process that would then split the water into hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel, dropping launch costs as each launch would be lighter without the need to carry enough fuel for the ride home. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, is excited by the possibilities:
It completely changes the spaceflight paradigm... It's like building a transcontinental railroad to space.
All that's required now is a coherent plan to return to the moon and start the process. That'll be the easy part, right...?
How astronauts could 'harvest' water on the moon [New Scientist]