It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Astronauts who think joining a lunar colony would mean no more Earthly chores should reconsider. One important task for any future Moon residents could well be mowing the lunar lawn.
,lunar 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". In place of whirling blades, however, the machine would use microwaves to force dust particles to clump together.
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. The powdery dust is quickly fused together into a glassy substance, he told a Lunar Exploration Advisory Group conference at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, US, in October.
Dust the job
Taylor says fusing the dust would reduce the risk to astronauts and their gear. At first, astronauts might just “mow” a fairly small area where they were living and working, he suggests. That way, they would still be able to collect unspoiled soil samples from the landscape. Later, for example, entire craters could be mowed to provide a flat foundation for instruments, such as a giant radio telescope.
On the surface of the Moon, a microwave mower could be hauled behind a lunar rover. The mower would feature several magnetrons – the same component used to generate microwaves inside a microwave oven.