345-1 Formation of Lunar Dust: Unique Properties for a Human Outpost

Thursday, 9 October 2008: 8:00 AM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310AD
Lawrence A. Taylor, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Both the liabilities and assets of lunar dust provide challenges for the outpost designs for a human presence on the Moon. The major cause of weathering and erosion on the dry, airless Moon is meteorite/micro-meteorite (<1 mm) impacts. This produces the crushing, shattering, and general comminution of the regolith. The extreme velocities of the micro-meteorites also cause some melting of the soil that quenches to glass, and effectively cements and aggregates mineral and rock particles into agglutinates. Some of this silicate melt also vaporizes and condenses on the surfaces of soil grains to form a 100-300 nm silica-rich glass containing a myriad of nano-sized metallic Fe particles, which impart magnetic susceptibility and extreme coupling with microwave energy. The <20 micron portion of lunar soil, the dust amounts to ~20 wt% of lunar soil, and consists mainly of sharp, jagged, abrasive impact-generated glass (50-80%), with lesser amounts of minerals.

This airless planet receives a constant flux of solar-wind particles. These mostly protons and alpha particles become impregnated in the outer 20-30 nm glass coatings of lunar soil/dust particles. This may be utilized as a major source of liquid hydrogen (LH) on the Moon, one use of which could be to reduce iron-bearing oxides and silicates in the soil to produce liquid oxygen (LOX). The magnetic properties of the dust can help filter and mitigate against toxic effects on respiratory and pulmonary systems in humans. The extreme coupling of microwave energy with the nanophase Fe can be fashioned into a machine for paving (fusion/melting) roads and landing pads on the Moon, further alleviating many of the deleterious effects of lunar dust. The science/engineering aspects of lunar dust remain major areas of consideration that must be addressed now to insure successful and effective lunar outpost designs for a multitude of topics.

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