Classification of Lunar Soil for Effective Space Resource Utilization: A New Approach

14 September, 2023 - 8:28 am (13 days ago)
1 min read

Multiple space agencies are planning to establish bases around the Moon’s southern polar region in the mid-2030s. The Artemis Base Camp and the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) are proposed facilities. These facilities aim to enable a sustained program of lunar exploration and development. A method known as In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is intended to be used where local resources are used as building materials.

However, not all lunar soil (regolith) is suitable for construction. In a recent study, geologist Kevin M. Cannon proposed a lunar soil classification scheme for space resource utilization. This would inform the construction of bases, habitats, and other facilities based on soil type and location.

Cannon’s research is focused on the role geologic processes play in the formation and evolution of planetary materials on the surfaces of different bodies in the Solar System. His proposed scheme, “A lunar soil classification system for space resource utilization,” recently appeared in the journal Planetary and Space Science.

On Earth, soil classification schemes are used for everything from construction and civil engineering projects to environmental science. However, these schemes do not apply to the lunar environment due to significantly different formation mechanisms.

Cannon’s classification scheme is simple and can be applied anywhere on the Moon. It measures the chemistry of the soil and the average particle size. This scheme can help identify soils rich in water ice, which could be used for everything from drinking water and irrigation to oxygen gas and propellant. It also includes other mineral elements that are needed to manufacture infrastructure, vehicles, and assorted components.

The lunar soil classification system proposed by Cannon is an innovative approach that could significantly impact future lunar missions. By identifying the most suitable soil types for construction purposes, this system could facilitate the establishment of lunar bases and habitats, and optimize the use of lunar resources. Moreover, it may also aid in identifying regions rich in water ice, which is essential for sustaining life and fueling spacecraft, as well as other mineral elements critical for infrastructure development.

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