Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lunar Dust Dilemma Solved (Via Space Umbrellas?)

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Despite having the potential to feed our energy gluttonous world, lunar dust can be fetal to both humans and our robot friends, not to mention very electric (thanks in part to the solar wind).

While scientists have suggested melting down nearby Moon soil in order to counter the rough dust particles, it may be better to construct large space umbrellas thanks to new research regarding lunar dust.

(Moon Today) "Before you can manage the dust, you have to understand what makes it sticky," says Brian O'Brien, the sole author of the paper. His analysis is the first to measure the strength of lunar dust's adhesive forces, how they change during the lunar day -- which lasts 710 hours -- and differ on vertical and horizontal surfaces. O'Brien used data from the matchbox-sized Dust Detector Experiments deployed on the Moon's surface in 1969 during the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. [...]

O'Brien found that later, as the Sun rose and the angle of incidence of the Sun's rays on the dusty vertical surface facing east decreased, the electrostatic forces on the vertical cell weakened. The tipping point was reached when the Sun was at an angle of about 45 degrees: then the pull of lunar gravity counteracted the adhesive forces and made the dust start falling off. All dust had fallen by lunar night.

"These are the first measurements of the collapse of the cohesive forces that make lunar dust so sticky" O'Brien says.

If the Sun is really influencing the stickiness of lunar dust, then the easiest way to combat it may be to erect an enormous space umbrella over the Lunar base.

While this may not give a future settlement an aesthetic look (which would not matter unless one was into the lunar hotel business), it could help reduce the amount of dust that makes it inside these future space habitats (a feature that may appeal to long term residents).

(Image Credit: Fashionably Geek)

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