Scientists from the German Federal Institute for Research and Testing of Materials (BAM) have come up with an idea to solve several problems facing planners of future lunar missions at one go. According to them, thanks to a giant lens that would focus sunlight, it would be possible not only to create a hardened surface, but also to limit the spread of lunar dust.
Our natural satellite is devoid of both air and water. Space agencies that dream not only of exploration, but also of establishing a base on the Moon, face a number of difficult challenges. One of them is, for example, protection against the ubiquitous dust that clogs machines, disrupts the operation of scientific instruments and makes it much more difficult to move even the most efficient devices.
Recently, scientists came up with a fascinating idea that would not only solve the dust problem, but also the movement problem. Research on this topic was published in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports” and reported by the British “Guardian”.
Using what is there
Using a giant lens, it would be possible to melt the dust to create solid roads and landing pads.
– You might think: “streets on the Moon, who needs it?” But in fact, it is an essential element, even at the beginning of planning. [Księżyc – przyp. red.] it’s full of very loose material, there’s no atmosphere, gravity is weak, so dust gets everywhere. It contaminates not only equipment, but also other components, said Professor Jens Gunster from the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing in Berlin and co-author of a new report on the subject.
There have been situations in the past where lunar material has wiped out comic missions. This was the case, among others, of the Surveyor 3 probe, which was destroyed by dust raised during the landing of Apollo 12. Therefore, meeting this challenge is a priority for NASA. Hardening the dust would be a cheaper solution than transporting building materials to the moon.
– You have to use what is available, which is simply loose dust – said Gunster.
He and his colleagues experimented with an extremely fine material developed by engineers from the European Space Agency. EAC-1A was created to imitate lunar soil. A laser beam with a diameter of 50 mm was directed at it and heated to a temperature of approximately 1,600 degrees Celsius. The molten dust formed small triangles that were very easy to connect. After cooling, it turned out to be very durable.
The process of producing such “asphalt” is not quick. Each triangle took about an hour to produce. This means that it would take about a hundred days to create material for a 10 by 10 meter landing pad. – It seems like an eternity, but you have to think about the structures on Earth. Sometimes it takes forever to build a new intersection, the scientist added.
To replicate this experiment on the Moon, it would be necessary to transport a lens with an area of at least 2.37 square meters. However, instead of a laser, it would act as a sunlight concentrator. Such a lens could be made of a polymer film that is easy to transport.
However, even if this could be achieved, the floating dust would still be a problem for the lens itself.
“If dust accumulates, sooner or later the lens will stop working,” Gunster said. Therefore, an even better solution would be to create a device that would vibrate the lens.
Main photo source: Lick Observatory/ESA/Hubble