As humanity sets its sights on expanding its presence in the solar system, the Moon emerges as a pivotal destination for exploration. However, the low lunar gravity poses a unique challenge – the generation of suspended dust during lunar rover movements, which can adversely affect exploration vehicle systems. This research paper delves into a novel solution: using concentrated light to pave the Moon’s surface by melting lunar regolith. A high-power CO2 laser is employed as a substitute for sunlight in this pioneering technique. The results show that large interlocking samples can be created for roads and landing pads, effectively curbing the propagation of lunar dust and enhancing the sustainability of lunar missions. We also examine the mineralogical composition, internal structure, and mechanical properties of these manufactured samples.
Introduction: The Moon, as Earth’s closest celestial neighbour, holds immense promise for future space exploration. However, the low lunar gravity presents a unique challenge – the creation of suspended dust when lunar rovers traverse the lunar soil. This dust can infiltrate vital systems and equipment, hindering lunar missions. This paper explores an innovative approach to mitigate this problem: using concentrated light to create lunar roads and landing pads. Methodology: To tackle this challenge, we employed a high-power CO2 laser as a surrogate for concentrated sunlight. This set-up enabled us to achieve a maximum laser spot diameter of 100 mm, facilitating the creation of thicker consolidated layers on the lunar surface. The lunar regolith simulant EAC-1A was used as a substitute for actual lunar soil. Large interlocking samples measuring approximately 250 x 250 mm were fabricated by melting the lunar simulant with the laser directly on a powder bed. Results: The use of concentrated light to melt lunar regolith has demonstrated the feasibility of constructing roads and landing pads on the Moon. These manufactured samples offer numerous advantages. First, they limit the dispersion of lunar dust, which is crucial for the integrity of exploration vehicles and equipment. Second, the interlocking capabilities of these samples ensure the stability of the constructed roads and landing pads. In addition to reducing dust propagation, we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the manufactured samples:
1. Mineralogical Composition: X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis revealed that the samples maintained a mineralogical composition similar to lunar regolith. This similarity is essential for preserving the lunar environment’s integrity. 2. Internal Structure: Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images of the samples displayed a well-consolidated structure, which is crucial for their durability and long-term functionality. 3. Mechanical Properties: A series of mechanical tests, including compressive strength and abrasion resistance, highlighted the samples’ robustness and their suitability for supporting the weight of lunar rovers and landers. Discussion: The use of concentrated light to pave the Moon’s surface represents a groundbreaking solution to the challenges posed by lunar dust generation. By creating roads and landing pads using this method, we can minimize the adverse effects of lunar dust on exploration missions, thus enhancing their sustainability. The interlocking design of the manufactured samples ensures the stability and reliability of these constructions. Conclusion: In conclusion, the application of a high-power CO2 laser to melt lunar regolith and create roads and landing pads on the Moon offers a promising solution for mitigating lunar dustrelated challenges. These manufactured samples, with their dust-containment properties, mineralogical composition, internal structure, and mechanical strength, represent a significant step toward enabling sustained and effective lunar exploration. As we look to establish a human presence on the Moon, these findings provide valuable insights for future missions and the potential for even more ambitious endeavours within our solar system.
written by Jake Takiguchi