In an audacious endeavor to pave the infrastructure on the moon, scientists are exploring the potential of laser technology to transform lunar soil into robust, layered materials suitable for roads and landing pads. A recent proof-of-concept study published in Scientific Reports unveils the promise held by lasers in melting lunar soil to create solidified structures, marking a significant stride towards lunar expeditions that are self-sustaining.
While the preliminary trials were conducted on Earth employing a lunar dust substitute, the outcomes underline the feasibility of this technique and hold a beacon of hope for its application on the lunar surface. Nonetheless, the authors of the study point towards the necessity of additional refinements to hone the process.
Combatting Moon Dust Menace
Lunar dust presents a formidable adversary to lunar rovers. The moon’s meager gravity allows dust to hover menacingly when agitated, posing a threat to equipment. Hence, the inception of infrastructure such as roads and landing pads is crucial to counter dust challenges and smooth the wheels of transport on the lunar surface. However, the hefty price tag attached to hauling construction materials from Earth necessitates the utilization of the moon’s indigenous resources.
From Earthly Experiments to Lunar Applications
The scientific trio, Ginés-Palomares, Miranda Fateri, and Jens Günster, led the charge by melting a material known as EAC-1A, crafted by ESA as a lunar soil stand-in, using a carbon dioxide laser. This experiment was designed to mimic how focused solar radiation could meld lunar dust into a solid entity on the moon.
Their quest for the ideal material led them through a series of trials with laser beams of varying strengths and sizes, landing on a strategy that employed a 45-millimeter diameter laser beam. The result was the creation of triangular, hollow-centered geometric shapes around 250 millimeters in size, that, when interlocked, could form a solid surface across vast lunar expanses, paving the way for potential roads and landing pads.
For this laser-centric approach to see the light of day on the moon, the authors estimate a requisite of a 2.37 meters squared lens, to be shipped from Earth, serving as a solar concentrator in the laser’s stead. The relatively modest equipment size bodes well for the feasibility of upcoming moon missions.
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