Building a lunar base would be one of the next logical steps in our exploration of the Solar System, but the survival of a future crew depends on access to a reliable source of energy. An ESA Discovery & Preparation study explored how lunar regolith – the dust, soil and rock on the Moon’s surface – could be used to store heat and provide electricity for future astronauts, rovers and landers.
Humans would have little difficulty reaching the Moon’s surface with today’s technology, but it is expensive – sometimes even impossible – to take all the materials we would need with us, especially if we want to stay for more than a couple of days. For sustainable, long-term exploration, we should instead look to local resources available at the destination. As part of this endeavour, Discovery & Preparation recently supported aerospace experts Azimut Space (formerly Sonaca Space) to investigate whether it would be possible to create ‘heat-storage bricks’ out of lunar regolith.
In space, energy typically comes via solar panels that provide almost instantaneous electricity when the Sun shines on them. But inhabitants of the Moon could expect to spend up to 16 days in darkness during the lunar night. Finding a sustainable energy solution that collects sunlight during the long lunar days and stores it for use at night is essential to make the prospect of long-term lunar habitation a reality.
Regolith bricks offer a way of storing daytime solar energy so that electricity can be produced at night; this would be vital for any humans living and working on the Moon. The stored heat could also be released directly to keep robotic equipment warm enough to function during the long hours of darkness.
“Apollo astronauts brought back small amounts of Moon rock, allowing us to create very similar ‘fake’ lunar regolith here on Earth,” explains Aidan Cowley from ESA’s Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration Directorate, who oversaw the project. “In this study, we used Earth rock with comparable properties to Moon rock, crushed into a powder until the particles matched the size of those in the lunar regolith.”
After making this powder into a brick, the team pumped energy into their imitation lunar regolith to see how well it could store heat. They also connected it to a heat engine to create electricity using the energy stored inside it.
“Any Moon-based technology would face incredibly tough conditions – long nights, temperatures ranging from -173°C to 127°C and extremely low pressures,” explains Project Manager Luca Celotti from Azimut Space. “We mimicked these conditions as best as we could to create a ‘Moon-like’ environment for our brick.”
“Using lunar regolith to store heat on the Moon would provide us with an abundance of readily-available material meaning space travellers wouldn’t need to take much from Earth. Eventually, this will enable more ambitious space missions to go ahead.”
As the imitation regolith worked well, the team would next like to make the process more efficient and scale it up to further investigate whether regolith bricks would be capable of producing the energy that would be required.
“This is just the first step towards creating an innovative and sustainable method of heat storage and electricity generation that could make it possible for us to land on the Moon,” concludes Luca.
Using local materials helps us move into sustainable, permanent exploration, giving rise to cheaper, safer and easier access to space. And lunar regolith would not only be useful for heat storage and electricity generation. This material – plentiful on the Moon – could also be used to build future habitats, as a source of oxygen or minerals, and even to make everyday objects such as tools.
Learn more: Powering the future with lunar soil
The Latest on: Lunar regolith
via Google News
The Latest on: Lunar regolith
- The promise of return on investment does not disappear in cislunar space and beyondon February 22, 2021 at 10:32 am
Lunar and cislunar industrial development faces a similar tragedy of the time horizon problem. In conventional economics there is no solution because at present there is no business case for ...
- 25 Things We've Learned About the Moon Since 1969on February 16, 2021 at 3:30 pm
NASA took its "one giant leap for mankind," and now over 50 years later, see what we have discovered about the moon.
- google lunar xprizeon February 15, 2021 at 3:59 pm
One idea is to essentially microwave the lunar regolith (and melt it) . This should work because there’s a decent iron component in the regolith, so if they can heat it up it should fuse.
- Alan Shepard smacked golf balls on the Moon — and now we know where they landedon February 15, 2021 at 10:12 am
Then, as his time on the lunar surface came to an end, he stood in front of a TV camera with his makeshift club and two golf balls. After a few one-armed swings that mainly moved regolith ...
- Chinese Lunar Rover Discovers 'Special' Rock That Could Reveal Secrets of Our Moonon February 15, 2021 at 1:24 am
The rock discovered by China's Yutu 2 rover has sharp edges, giving it the appearance of protruding from the surface. The rover responsible for this find has been on the lunar surface since 2018.
- China's Yutu 2 Rover Discovers Strange Rock on the Far Side of Moonon February 15, 2021 at 12:28 am
Yutu 2 resumed its activities on February 6, 2021, and then made an interesting discovery on the lunar surface that scientists call a "milestone".
- Chinese lunar rover discovers a strange rock on the moonon February 14, 2021 at 9:43 am
Scientists have used the instrument to investigate other rocks and regolith samples along the ... and material that potentially came from the lunar mantle. The interesting spiral rock the rover ...
- China's Yutu 2 Rover Discovers 'unusual' Shard-shaped Rock On Unexplored Far Side Of Moonon February 14, 2021 at 3:49 am
In one of the most important discoveries of its mission, China’s Yutu 2 Rover has found an ‘unusual’ shard on the unexplored far side of the moon.
- Picture: China’s Yutu 2 rover finds ‘milestone’ on far side of the moonon February 13, 2021 at 7:05 am
China's Chang'e 4 spacecraft are back in action for a 27th lunar day on the far side of the moon, but it's the discoveries from the mission's previous ...
- China's Yutu 2 rover finds 'milestone' on far side of the moonon February 13, 2021 at 6:42 am
But one lunar day earlier the rover came across a ... VNIS has been used to investigate a number of rocks and regolith samples along Yutu 2's path across Von Kármán crater.
via Bing News