Scientists from the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) have come up with an idea to solve several problems facing future lunar mission planners at once. According to them, thanks to the giant lens that would focus sunlight, it would be possible not only to create a solid surface, but also limit the spread of lunar dust.
Our natural satellite is devoid of air and water. Space agencies that dream of not only exploring but also establishing a base on the Moon face a number of difficult challenges. One is, for example, protection against ubiquitous dust, which clogs machines, disrupts the operation of scientific instruments and makes movement more difficult, even for the most efficient instruments.
Recently, scientists came up with a brilliant idea that will solve not only the dust problem, but also the problem of movement. The research on this topic was published in the scientific journal “Scientific Reports” and was reported by the British newspaper “Guardian”.
Using what’s out there
Using a giant lens, it will be possible to dissolve dust to create solid roads and landing pads.
– You may think: “Streets on the moon, who needs them?” But it is actually an essential element even at the beginning of planning. [Księżyc – przyp. red.] It’s filled with very loose materials, there’s no atmosphere, and gravity is weak, so dust spreads everywhere. It contaminates not only equipment but also other components, said Professor Jens Gunster of 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 moon material eliminated comedy duties. This was the case, among others, of the Surveyor 3 probe, which was destroyed by rising dust during the landing of Apollo 12. Therefore, meeting this challenge is a priority for NASA. Solidifying the dust would be a cheaper solution than transporting building materials to the moon.
– You have to use what is available, which is just 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 mimic lunar soil. A laser beam with a diameter of 50 mm was directed at it and heated to a temperature of approximately 1600 °C. 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 fast. Each triangle took about an hour to produce. This means that it would take about a hundred days to create material for a 10 x 10 meter landing pad. – It seems like an eternity, but you have to think about the structures on Earth. The scientist added that it sometimes takes a long time to build a new intersection.
To repeat this experiment on the Moon, it will be necessary to move a lens with an area of no less than 2.37 square metres. However, instead of a laser, it would act as a concentrator for sunlight. This lens can be made from a polymer film that is easy to transport.
However, even if this could be achieved, floating dust would still be a problem for the lens itself.
“If dust builds up, the lens will stop working sooner or later,” Gunster said. Therefore, the best solution is to create a device that will vibrate the lens.
Main image source: Lick Observatory/ESA/Hubble
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