A new study has melted fake Moon dust into a type of bricks for building roads, potentially providing a way for humans and robots to better travel on the Moon.
Despite being our closest space neighbour, the Moon is not particularly hospitable. While you might think this is due to the lack of oxygen and gravity, the biggest sticking point is the dirt.
“The next steps for the expansion of the human presence in the Solar System will be taken on the Moon,” the researchers wrote in their new paper published in Scientific Reports.
“However, due to the low lunar gravity, the suspended dust generated when lunar rovers move across the lunar soil is a significant risk for lunar missions as it can affect the systems of the exploration vehicles.”
The lunar soil – known as regolith – sticks to everything, damages spacesuits and equipment and can even get inside our lungs.
The researchers from Germany, Austria and The Netherlands took artificially-made lunar regolith (or moon dirt) and melted it with a high-power carbon dioxide laser. They were able to produce 10cm thick, 25cm wide triangular interlocking tiles which could be used as a type of road or landing pad.
Using these pieces would limit the amount of lunar dust being kicked up and damaging equipment.
But the biggest drawcard is the size of the machine. With the ingredients to make the tiles already located on the Moon, the proof of concept has shown that all you’d need is a sunlight concentrator lens of 2.37 metres squared – about the size of an office desk.
Although that sounds large, it’s relatively small for Moon equipment and could be a big deal for lunar missions.
“For the application scenario of this technology on the Moon, a sunlight concentrator could be transported from Earth and deployed on the Moon,” the researchers write.
“The relatively small size of the required equipment and the simplicity of the system would be an advantage for the use of this technology in future missions on the Moon.”