Glass Highway: Dangerous dust on the Moon will be used to build roads

The Moon may soon receive more guests than ever before, thanks to an ambitious plan by NASA and its international partners to build a permanent base on its surface for astronauts to stay for a long time.

A landing pad built from lunar soil. Illustration: ESA

The basis of future missions to the Moon will be next-generation lunar rovers that will allow crews to explore the surface of the Earth’s moon. However, there is a serious threat regarding the harmful dust that these rovers will raise during movement.

Engineers are working to solve this problem by developing a method that involves melting dust to create a hard surface, like paved roads on Earth. These ways will ensure a safe and fast journey for lunar rovers and their crews.

Roads on the Moon

Tests simulating lunar dust have been carried out on Earth using a laser beam that melts powdery material, turning it into a glassy, solid surface. However, engineers are considering an alternative to working on the Moon, where sunlight can be concentrated on a Fresnel lens to melt dust and create the necessary coating. 


The European Space Agency (ESA) recently released a video describing the work on this technology. According to their information, engineers have developed a method that uses a 4.5 cm diameter laser beam to create geometric shapes with a hollow center about 20 cm across. These tiles can be combined to create solid surfaces on significant areas of lunar soil that can serve as roads or landing sites for rovers. 

According to the calculations of the project team, it will take approximately 115 days to build a flat landing site using this method. ESA materials engineer Advenit Makaya described the resulting material as “vitreous and brittle”, and added that it was resistant to compression and did not require repair in case of cracks.

Dangerous dust

Lunar dust is known for its danger to equipment and astronauts due to its very sharp structure. The moon’s low gravity makes it even more dangerous for missions visiting its surface.

The PAVER consortium used a 12-kilowatt laser to melt a simulation of lunar dust into a glassy solid surface, as a way to build asphalt surfaces on the surface of the Moon. Photo: ESA
PAVER consortium developed a strategy through trial and error, using a 4.5 cm diameter laser beam to create triangular geometric shapes with a hollow center approximately 20 cm across. They can be interconnected to create solid surfaces on large areas of lunar soil, which can serve as roads or landing sites. Photo: ESA

“The problem of dust exposure was relevant for NASA back in the days of the Apollo program. During the missions, astronauts were constantly confronted with dust, which interfered with the operation of equipment, leading to overheating and damage to spacesuits,” stated on the agency’s website.

Any technology that helps keep dust at a distance will be extremely useful for the planned Artemis missions, so engineers are actively working on developing lunar coating methods to turn dust into roads and ensure safe movement for our astronauts.

Earlier we explained why it was so difficult to land on the Moon.

According to ESA

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