Hidden Nook

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Lunar Lawnmowers?

[Media Source*]

(New Scientist Space) [L]unar astronauts have complained of dust sticking to their space suits and getting into seals. Several even reported respiratory problems and itchy eyes as a result of exposure to dust carried into lunar landers. The dust also caused problems for mechanical and electronic equipment.

Fortunately for future colonists, Lawrence Taylor, a planetary geologist at the University of Tennessee, US, has devised a way to combat this Moon menace - a "lunar lawnmower".

Although this may sound like a silly space chore to most people, this "lunar lawnmower" could make the difference between having a hospitable world or a hostile one on the lunar surface. The "lawnmower" does not cut anything, rather it uses microwave energy in order to fuse the dust particles together. Whether pushed by a disobedient astronaut or strapped behind a rover, this invention would help reduce the irritation of establishing a colony on the moon.

(New Scientist Space) Taylor tested genuine lunar dust in a 250-watt microwave oven on Earth and discovered that, after just 30 seconds, the grains fused together. This is because there are nanometre-sized particles of iron present on nearly every grain of lunar soil and microwaves cause the iron particles to couple together.

With NASA planning on colonizing the moon around 2018, (and China 2017) this device will make development a whole lot easier, as the lawnmower would help smooth out the surface enabling colony sites, telescopes, etc. to be easily constructed on the surface. NASA is looking at other ways to remove the dust irritant, and if successful here, they may be able to figure out a way to deal with the Martian dust as well.

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By Darnell Clayton • 8:57 AM • Email Post • •


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