NASA is planning missions to show how to make oxygen on Mars and water on the moon.
Previously, studies have showed that the viable option for future human expeditions to Mars - as well as Mars sample return missions - require "in-situ resource utilization," or IRSU, to cut the costs of launching everything from Earth.
Lunar geologist Paul Spudis, with the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, told Discovery News, said that doing ISRU gives leverage as the fraction of intelligent-to-dumb mass on your spacecraft is changed in favor of the intelligent part.
The first in-space ISRU test has been targeted for 2018. NASA would then be launching a mission called Resource Prospector, which includes a rover that has tools to look for telltale hydrogen, drill out samples, heat them and scan for water vapor and other volatiles on the moon. Vapor could also be re-condensed to form water droplets.
A second ISRU experiment is set to take place aboard NASA's next Mars rover, slated for launch in 2020. The device, yet to be selected, is going to be pulling carbon dioxide from the Mars' atmosphere, filter out dust and other particles, and prepare the gas for chemical processing into oxygen.