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NASA Moon Space Science

NASA Needs Fake Moon Dust 179

crisco writes "NASA's renewed interest in lunar exploration and 'in situ resource utilization,' or ISRU, is driving the need for tons of carefully faked lunar dust and sand for testing purposes: 'We don't have enough real moondust to go around,' says Larry Taylor, director of Planetary Geosciences Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. To run all the tests, "we need to make a well-qualified lunar simulant.' And not just a few bags will do. 'We need tons of it, mainly for working on technologies for diggers and wheels and machinery on the surface,' adds David S. McKay, chief scientist for astrobiology at the Johnson Space Center (JSC)."
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NASA Needs Fake Moon Dust

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  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:40PM (#17404354)
    Just take it form the Fake moon landing site.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mentaldingo ( 967181 )
      We need tons of it, mainly for working on technologies for diggers and wheels and machinery on the surface,
      And fake videos..
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by forkazoo ( 138186 )

      Just take it form the Fake moon landing site.

      First off - it has been decades since they used any of it, so it probably all got thrown out back, and blown away, etc.

      Second off, it was only designed to *look* like moon dust. And, on 1960's TV, at that. And, they had to "lose" the high quality slow scan tapes...
    • by Cctoide ( 923843 )
      It was a sound stage on Mars.
    • by wootest ( 694923 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:59PM (#17405308)
      I didn't originally come up with this (although I wish I did), but the US is probably the only country where there are people who believe the moon landing was fake and wrestling is real.
      • I didn't originally come up with this (although I wish I did), but the US is probably the only country where there are people who believe the moon landing was fake and wrestling is real.

        True, WWE is worked [] (scripted), where shooting [] is discouraged (spontaneous action). But collegiate wrestling [] and Olympic wrestling [] have always been a "shoot". Some other professional wrestling leagues are unscripted; these include Real Pro Wrestling and Pancrase, as well as the mixed martial arts leagues. See also Shoot wrestling [].

  • mean it really WAS a windy day in Arizona...
  • by Surt ( 22457 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:55PM (#17404498) Homepage Journal
    Blow up the moon. We probably have enough nukes to do it, and how hard can delivery be? The amount of material that drops on the earth as a result will surely be at least several tons.
    • If you've ever watched Mr. Show (HBO), then you may remember the skit about blowing up the moon. Scientists trained a monkey to do the job, but then, using sign language, it asked "Why blow up the moon?" Thankfully, they fired that monkey and hired a circus monkey to do it. No questions asked. Hooray for the USA!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by SeeSchloss ( 886510 )
      I'm always astonished by the level of ignorance of people regarding nukes and blowing up large objects... I seriously doubt any amount of nukes detonated on the surface of the Moon would be able to blow it up, detonating all of the Earth's arsenal a thousand of kilometers or so under the surface might produce some results (but 'm doubtful about it) but there's no way we can do that.

      I remember this time I was talking about sending nuclear waste or nukes to the Sun to get rid of them to someone, and another g
      • by Surt ( 22457 )
        detonating all of the Earth's arsenal a thousand of kilometers or so under the surface might produce some results (but 'm doubtful about it) but there's no way we can do that.

        Well that's all part of the delivery challenge I was talking about.

    • And think of all the werewolves we'd be helping!
      • by Surt ( 22457 )
        Now that was the kind of answer I was hoping for. Did you see the guy who (apparently) took my post seriously, and challenged it on the technical merits?
    • by Surt ( 22457 )
      Just to clear it up for the mods, this is intended to be funny, not a troll. The funny parts are:

      1) We don't actually have enough nukes to blow up the moon. As much as we like to believe in our power, the danger our nukes pose is mostly to the surface mile or so of the earth, which just happens to be 100% of the part we live on.

      2) If we solved the problem of delivering all the nukes to the moon, bringing back plenty of moon rocks would no longer be a challenging problem.

      3) If we actually destroyed the moo
  • Oh boy... (Score:4, Funny)

    by wertarbyte ( 811674 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:56PM (#17404508) Homepage
    Another movie remake.
  • ash (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hurfy ( 735314 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @07:57PM (#17404520)
    I thought that huge pile of ash from Mt St Helens was a close substitute.

    Aren't there still piles of it at the end of the ?Toutle? river. Used to be tons and tons of it stacked up by I-5. I'll bet the price is right too ;)

    Heck maybe it is worse than lunar dust and they can overbuild the vehicles a bit to get thru it :)
    • by arivanov ( 12034 )

      They used to train for the previous moon landings on lava flows. What is exactly is the problem with doing this now?
  • I happen to have just what they need and it's been stored in a vacuum. Even contains evidence of lunar canines and space dust bunnies. NASA - please let me know if you're interested before Tuesday (trash pick-up).
  • by Fox_1 ( 128616 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:07PM (#17404580)
    Armstrong and Aldrin found a thin dust layer on the surface of the moon.
    'I am at the foot of the ladder. The LM [lunar module ] footpads are only depressed in the surface about one or two inches, although the surface appears. to be very, very fine grained, as. you get close to it. It is almost like a powder. Now and then it is very fine. I am going to step off the LM now. That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'
    When he started walking on the surface of the moon he said:
    'The surface is fine and powdery. I can - I can pick it up loosely with my toe. It does adhere in fine layers like powdered charcoal to the sole and sides. of my boots. I only go in a small fraction of an inch, maybe an eighth of an inch, but I can see the footprints. of my boots and the treads in the fine sandy particles.'
    When he was collecting samples:
    'This is very interesting. It is a very soft surface, but here and there where I plug with the contingency sample collector, I run into a very hard surface, but it appears to be very cohesive material of the same sort. I will try to get a rock in here.'
    Apparently the ground was unyielding enough that they had trouble getting the flag planted.
    • by agent0range_ ( 472103 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:07PM (#17404976)

      As I understand the lunar dust is much "rougher" as it hasn't been polished by the same forces (eg: wind and water), which causes it to stick to just about everything.

      The Effects of Lunar Dust on EVA Systems During the Apollo Missions []

      "the effects could be sorted into nine categories: vision obscuration, false instrument readings, dust coating and contamination, loss of traction, clogging of mechanisms, abrasion, thermal control problems, seal failures, and inhalation and irritation. Although simple dust mitigation measures were sufficient to mitigate some of the problems (i.e., loss of traction) it was found that these measures were ineffective to mitigate many of the more serious problems (i.e., clogging, abrasion, diminished heat rejection). The severity of the dust problems were consistently underestimated by ground tests, indicating a need to develop better simulation facilities and procedures."

      I wonder how someone could manufacture "fake moon dust" here on earth. Meh, at least I can sleep at night knowing this isn't my problem.

      • Manufacturing nano particle in mass has been going on for a few years now. Shouldn't be hard to use some of these processes to make moon dust. Sure it won't have the same randomness possibly, but it shouldn't be too hard, just an issue of scale. How much does NASA really want this, are they willing to buy enough to fund a factory.
        • by khallow ( 566160 )
          I get the impression that there are some sources that have been around since the 80's. The lunar soil simulants have been improving in quality and cost since then. I think a lot of the new simulants are necessary to test out industrial processes that might be used on the Moon and to better understand the likely effects of lunar dust abrasion.
          • The moral and scientific issues it brings up are so crazy I choose not even to discuss them.

            Are you talking about the movie Speed 2?

            • by khallow ( 566160 )
              Nah, that one's pretty cut and dry. Some guy whined about a post he didn't like adding that little gem on the end. I seem to recall the grandparent was some mild transhumanist thing like the benefits of cloning people. You know how they can get.
              • You know how they can get.

                Yeah. They're nearly as crazy as the people who decided that making Speed 2 would be a good idea. Nearly.

                • by khallow ( 566160 )
                  I get the feeling that movie was designed around the tanker explosion and er, "parking" that passenger ship. It's probably have made an ok 5 minute film, but they had to fill it out with lame.
    • That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind

      You left out the "a". Not only did he intend to say it, he did say it, and it was lost in the poor voice transmission. []
  • Got abrasive dust? (Score:4, Informative)

    by JayTech ( 935793 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:09PM (#17404592)
    Sounds like a nearly impossible task to replicate lunar dust considering how abrasive the stuff is. This article [] does a good job of explaining.
    • They didn't need any lunar dust the first time they went to the moon. Why do they need this stuff now. Just to crank up the budget?
    • OK NASA, how authentic do you want to be?

      Because to simulate the "vision obscuration, false instrument readings, dust coating and contamination, loss of traction, clogging of mechanisms, abrasion, thermal control problems, seal failures, and inhalation and irritation" it certainly sounds like they could use asbestos dust and have something quite close.

      Of course, then OSHA might step in and say "hey, working with that stuff's too dangerous - you can't do that" which is precisely the POINT.

      So, we've been told
  • why not use recycled building materials that are crushed into a fine powder or whatever consistency is "near" moondust?

    Drywall/sheetrock, concrete, I'm sure it can be ground-down and it provides a use for them instead of being chucked into the landfill.
    • Re:why not use... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:50PM (#17404852) Journal
      If the lunar surface is primarily aluminum oxide of some form (not that it is, but that sounds kind of right) then is will be both durable and abrasive. If testing is required to determine life expectancies of both operating equipment and excavation/drilling machinery then they will need to replicate both the particle size, distribution (in terms of seive percentages) and durability/hardness.

      Excuse me...I need to go start my RFP paperwork...
      • and as you have the only lucid post here for me to ask this of..

        when you are building equipment to test moving multiple cubic meteres of solids, and you wanna be so precise that you are mucking up composition and particle sizes-

        won't one of the big factors be the weight per given volume- and won't that be drastically different on the lunar surface than anything earthbound?

        i.e. to build a 'earthmover' (regolithmover?) able to tunnel straight down a 2X2 meter sharft and remove the remainder straight up-- mi
        • by Myself ( 57572 )
          Gravity's an easy factor to adjust for. Particle size and abrasiveness lead to a much tricker set of problems, not all of which are obvious until you spend some time in the environment.
        • Late getting back to /., but here goes:

          mass/volume is pretty easy to predict, as is the traction of heavy equipment once you characterize the soil. And I use soil here as an engineering term, not a terrestrial one. For excavation and such, soil science is fairly decent when only the basic conditions of a soil are known. On the moon, there are far fewer ways to create soil thatn there are on earth, so the beginning set of possible conditions is likely to be a bit smaller. Once the basic characteristics are k
  • So predictable (Score:2, Informative)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 )
    NASA is finally winning over the last few people who believe that the original moon landings were faked and now as they prepare to go back they put out a call for tons of fake lunar soil. I'd suspect that they do some of these things to intentionally draw the charges.

  • We've been using it to simulate craters in the classroom for decades.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack ( 784150 )
      would that be fine enough though. The stuff they need would need to be the same as material that had been pounded by meteorites for billions of years and irradiated for that long too.

      Wasn't it found to be very fine and thus 'sticky'.

      I suspect some heavy industrial processing would be required to replicate it. However, without the same gravitational field it would behave differently anyhow, so a less accurate analogue would likely suffice.
  • Riiiiiight (Score:5, Funny)

    by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:45PM (#17404820) Homepage
    They just want us to think they don't know how to make fake moon dust. :)
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:50PM (#17404844) Journal

    It's quite abundant, and I'm sure there are some places in the Phillipines or maybe even our own Mt. St. Helens area where they've still got excess and would be happy to get rid of it. If that doesn't fit the bill, how hard is it to find rocks of the same composition as the moon, and grind them up?

    • I think the trick would probably be to get some volcanic stone, and then expose it to repeated explosions (not grinding) in an anaerobic environment, in as close to vacuum as you can generate on earth. By the way, grinding is definitely not the way to go here, as that would tend to polish the grains, making them far smoother than lunar dust.
      • Well, if the vacuum and lack of bacteria isn't important, then maybe they could give free stone targets to shooting ranges, with the stipulation that the dust be collected and given back. All kinds of problems with that too. Bullets are probably less energetic than meteors, and maybe you need meteors of various sizes. If it turns out they actually need to reproduce the process, that sounds like a really cool machine. You'd need to have one heck of a containment system for fragments produced by rocks col

        • um, anaerobic means "contains no molecular oxygen." The terms means nothing specifically about bacteria, although many types of bacteria are described as being anaerobic, which means they do not use oxygen in their metabolism and/or are outright poisoned by it. Molecular Oxygen is quite corrosive, which is why I added that stipulation.
  • Funny idea.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kigrwik ( 462930 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:53PM (#17404872)
    With the gravity being different, the mechanics won't fit, whether or not the dust is moon-like or not.

  • by robably ( 1044462 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @08:55PM (#17404898) Journal
    a well-qualified lunar simulant
    That's no moon, it's a Space Station.

    And it's got a degree.
  • by Gunfighter ( 1944 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:10PM (#17404984) Homepage
    From what I've seen from lunar landing footage and descriptions of the lunar surface, I have about a pound of material that would make a great substitute. It's caked on my video card and motherboard inside my computer case. I'll just scoop it up into a ziplock back and mail it to NASA. Perhaps if the other two million Slashdot readers can empty theirs as well, they would have enough to complete their mission. Where should we mail this stuff to?
  • hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Swimport ( 1034164 )
    Whoever gets this contract, I bet NASA ends up paying $100,000 a ton for dirt.
  • Sheesh! (Score:2, Funny)

    by seebs ( 15766 )
    Why not just use whatever they used for those famously faked moon landings?
  • Dust and dirt from Earth have generally been exposed to natural erosion forces that round off the corners from the rock fragments. The stuff coming from the Moon has not experienced equivalent weathering, and so it is much more abrasive than one might expect. As NASA begins to design new lunar equipment, it needs to test just how the prototypes will hold up to the Moon's "environment."
  • by Plutonite ( 999141 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @09:46PM (#17405216)
    You're not going to cure the apathy of us 18-25 year olds with fake pot. I'm telling you, we're better than that, we are the myspace generation!

    Wait a minute..fake moondust will do just fine.
  • Let them use the huge supply there...

  • could supply tons of baby powder quite easily...
  • Because we (the iPod Generation) are indifferent to space exploration.
  • Are they going to fake the low gravity environment too? Seriously.

    Did not RTFA
  • I read a news story last year--I think it was in the "Dallas Morning News"--that was about the need for more lunar simulant, but it mentioned a researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas. I actually made a few trips to UTD to talk with this guy. I considered for a while the possibility of starting a small company to produce lunar simulant, but I eventually decided that it is out of my means.
  • And not just a few bags will do. 'We need tons of it, mainly for working on technologies for diggers and wheels and machinery on the surface,'

    They actually plan to cut cocaine with it and sell it to schoolchildren. Spacecraft aren't cheap, you know. Have to raise the money somehow.

  • My Kids got Moon Sand from Santa .

    I suppose that Santa has more Contacts with the Man in the Moon than NASA does . []

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