Paved roads and landing pads could be built on the Moon using giant lasers to melt lunar soil into a more solid substance, according to a new study.
And they believe it could be replicated on the Moon.
‘Moon dust poses a significant challenge to lunar rovers as, due to the low levels of gravity, it tends to float around when disturbed and can damage equipment,’ said co-author Professor Miranda Fateri, of Aalen University.
‘Therefore, the infrastructure such as roads and landing pads will be essential to mitigate dust issues and facilitate transport on the Moon.
‘However, transporting materials for construction from Earth is costly, so it will be essential to use the resources available on the Moon.’
The research team melted a fine-grained material called EAC-1A with a carbon dioxide laser to simulate how lunar dust could be melted into a solid substance by focused solar radiation on the Moon.
They experimented with laser beams of different strengths and sizes – up to 12 kilowatts and 100 millimetres across respectively – to create a robust material.
The team, whose findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports, established that criss-crossing or overlapping the laser beam path led to cracking.
They developed a strategy using a 45 millimetre diameter laser beam to produce triangular, hollow-centred geometric shapes around 250 millimetres in size.
‘These could be interlocked to create solid surface across large areas of lunar soil which could serve as roads and landing pads,’ said Professor Fateri.
To reproduce such an approach on the Moon, the research team calculated that a lens of around 2.37 metres squared would need to be transported from Earth to act as a sunlight concentrator in place of the laser.
‘The relatively small size of equipment needed would be an advantage in future Moon missions,’ said Professor Fateri, adding further work may be needed to refine the process.
When it comes to building on the Moon, those planning and constructing will also need to factor in the object’s long moonquakes, which can last for up to an hour.