​Blasting the Moon’s surface with super-concentrated Sun beams could help create usable roads for future lunar rovers!

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​Blasting the Moon’s surface with super-concentrated Sun beams could help create usable roads for future lunar rovers!
As appealing as the idea of lunar rovers being all-terrain may be, it is high time we afford them the luxury of smoother lunar roads. Not only will paving the Moon provide a less bumpy ride for these resilient vehicles, scientists believe it could also greatly contribute to safeguarding landers and other technology sent to explore the lunar surface. This is primarily due to one straightforward reason: lunar dust.
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While Earth possesses wind and water to weather rocks into sand, the Moon's thin atmosphere and distinct lack of liquid water prevent rocks from undergoing such transformations. Ironically, the absence of an atmosphere also means that our lunar neighbour is persistently bombarded by cosmic radiation and extraterrestrial impacts, grinding its surface into powdery regolith.

This lunar dust poses a challenge. Its electrical charge and sharp edges make it particularly adhesive and abrasive, which means that over time, it could cause significant damage to lunar technology. In addition, inhaling lunar dust is, of course, ill-advised unless you desire a lung full of consequences.

In an effort to mitigate these challenges in lunar exploration, scientists have long been considering the idea of constructing roads on the Moon. However, without the luxury of space transportation, one can only imagine the difficulty and cost associated with transporting bulky materials from Earth to its celestial satellite.

Hence, in an attempt to find on-site solutions, researchers conducted experiments to investigate the possibility of repurposing lunar dust into suitable materials for lunar roads. And what better way to test an idea than by subjecting it to the intense power of the Sun!

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The team aimed to fuse lunar dust into robust and rigid structures suitable for lunar rovers. To achieve this, they chose to focus sunlight on lunar regolith, hoping this process would yield a strong outcome. The experiments involved directing strong lasers at EAC-1A, a synthetic material similar to lunar soil, in order to simulate the Sun's radiation.

In a triumphant success, the experiments resulted in the creation of triangular, hollow-centred tiles measuring approximately 9.8 inches in width and 1 inch in thickness. These tiles could interlock to form solid, level surfaces that could serve as lunar roads and potentially as landing sites for future missions.

However, generating sunlight powerful enough to melt lunar dust into usable tiles necessitated the use of exceptionally large lenses, scaling up to a massive 5.7 feet in diameter. Imagine using a colossal magnifying glass, as tall as you are, to ignite something.

Further research will be required to assess how these lunar tiles withstand the harsh lunar environment and their suitability for landing platforms. Simulated lunar conditions, with reduced gravity and low atmospheric pressure, will assist in this evaluation.

The findings of this research have been published in Scientific Reports and can be accessed at this link.
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