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Space

Magnetic Trunk Could Collect Moon Dust 82

Matthew Sparkes writes "Astronauts living on the Moon will need lots of water, oxygen and other resources that can be extracted from the lunar soil. Collecting this in a mechanical way could throw up lots of dust that could harm equipment and astronauts health, as well as ruining the view. The answer may be to create a flexible tube with magnetic coils spaced at regular intervals along its length that could suck up the iron-heavy dust. The research was presented on Thursday at the Lunar and Planetary Society Conference in Houston, Texas. Another study suggests burying lunar habitats with packaged moon dust could help regulate their temperature. On the airless Moon, the surface bakes to over 100 Celsius during the day and plunges to a frigid -150 C at night."
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Magnetic Trunk Could Collect Moon Dust

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  • Or do both (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ikyaat ( 764422 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @09:43AM (#18400757) Homepage
    If you built the walls of the habitats with the magnetic coils then they would attract the dust and bury themselves, solving both the dust and the thermal regulation problems in one go.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by MattSparkes ( 950531 )
      Wouldn't that screw with instruments in the habitat? Also, any astronauts trying to leave and go do their experiments/play golf/drive around in a space buggy would stick to the outside of the dome.
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      I know this is OT, but it just occurred to me for the first time that if the temperature varies regularly between 100C and -150C, than that must mean that the temperature is regularly around 22C, which is actually quite comfortable. It's just odd to think of the moon having a temperature of 22C at the surface, even if for only a brief time.

      Which makes me wonder - if you're standing at a specific place on the moon (or leave a thermometer there) how long would it be in the range of 20 - 25C in its plunge fro
      • by bberens ( 965711 )
        Obviously I'm just speculating because I don't have real lunar data to back me up but I'd imagine that the 'window of opportunity' in decent temperatures would be in the seconds. Improperly assume that the time it takes for the sun to come over the horizon to 'noon' is ~6 hours like on earth. That means in 6 hours there's a net temperature changes of roughly 250C. Averaged out, that's just under 0.7C difference per minute. With that estimate in mind it would be in the range of 20-25C for about 7 minutes
        • by AI0867 ( 868277 )
          However, the moon does not have a 24 hour rotation cycle. It takes one (lunar) month for it to circle the earth, and as I'm sure you've noticed, the same side stays towards us all the time as well, meaning it also takes a lunar month for it to rotate around it's axis.

          In other words, on the moon, a day equals a month, so you have only two occasions of "comfortable" temperature per month. Also, due to the lack of atmosphere, these transitions aren't going to take days. There is no atmosphere to warm up, just
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rob Carr ( 780861 )
        If you look at the equation for the temperature of a planet, it's:

        Ts*(Rs/2D)^.5=Tb

        where Ts is the temperature of the sun, Tb the temperature of the body you're concerned with (both temperatures in an absolute scale), Rs is the radius of the sun, and D is the distance to the sun. If you don't know what 2, ^ and .5 mean, please go away.

        You'd think temperature would be inversely related to the square of the distance, but temperature based on radiation is a fourth-power function, so when you actually grin

    • can't see why that wouldn't work, provided (and this also answers a question someone else asked of your post) that the coils are turned off once the dust has collected.

      Some way of fixing the dust in place would be needed, but there are plenty of foams well suited to that sort of job. I say foams because by starting as a semi liquid they would gain better coverage over the dust.
      • Why? there is no wind, and the moon is not geologically active. I would think a pile of dust would remain a pile of dust until something hit it.
        • the slightest impact from something dropped or moved by an astronout would cause a cloud of dust that could be a real pain. Much better to seal it
          • by solitas ( 916005 )
            Remember though: the 'cloud' wouldn't travel too far since the particles wouldn't stay suspended (for lack of air), and would tend to move pretty much laterally rather than vertically if something was dropped; and even then not with much energy. Kicking dust would be about the same - it's kind of hard to accidentally kick dirt 'up' with much force.

            Did you ever see any of the Apollo surface footage? Even the particles in the 'rooster tails' kicked-up by the Lunar Roving vehicles used by Apollos 14/15/16 (h
  • just put carpets around it...how much is it? 2$ a sq foot here? and vacuum ones in a while...
  • Moon junk? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @09:45AM (#18400791)
    So the astronomers like a little junk in the magnetic trunk?
  • by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @09:52AM (#18400847)
    Mine has always collected a lot of dust.
  • Moonba (Score:3, Funny)

    by Radon360 ( 951529 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @09:55AM (#18400879)

    So, will the astronauts keep their base clean using autonomous robotic, magnetic vacuum cleaners called Moonbas?

    • Only to compete with the Swiffer: Moonjet Edition.
    • Why autonomous? Instead of trying to making complex AI-enabled cleaners, just hook up a grad student via remote control to each one. It's not like you'd need to hire undocumented workers from Mexico to clean house on the moon. You'd have PhD's clamoring for the honor.
    • So, will the astronauts keep their base clean using autonomous robotic, magnetic vacuum cleaners called Moonbas?

      Even better, why not send up a Super Model [iht.com]?
  • How the hell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Thaelon ( 250687 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @09:55AM (#18400881)

    Collecting this in a mechanical way could throw up lots of dust that could harm equipment and astronauts health, as well as ruining the view.

    How the hell is this going to be a problem - especially the part about ruining the view - when dust on the moon falls back to the ground at the same speed as a dropped hammer [nasa.gov].
    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by MattSparkes ( 950531 )
      The view part was a joke, but I'm obviously not as funny as I thought I was.
    • Presumably, and this is just my uninformed guess, but:
      I don't think any seriously-considered proposals for permanent moon bases involve astronauts remaining in spacesuits the entire time. We'd probably want to pressurize [fill with air] a whole area, for example a domed area on the surface or a tunnel below the surface.

      My house has its own floor, but I still track dirt in, and it travels well enough even with 1 whole g pulling it down.
      • Thats because even on one g, earth has AIR.
        And the moon doesnt. Thus all dust particles just parabola back to the ground.
        • Yes, but: I don't think any seriously-considered proposals for permanent moon bases involve astronauts remaining in spacesuits the entire time.
      • My house has its own floor, but I still track dirt in, and it travels well enough even with 1 whole g pulling it down.

        A) Your house has a floor, but it doesn't have a re-pressurization chamber, where you could wash off and/or filter out any dust/dirt.

        B) Dust travels well on earth because of the heavy atmosphere. Fish "travel well enough" in water, but take away their heavy water atmosphere, and suddenly they fall like a rock.

        • To A: I had considered that one would do their best to clean off moon dust when re-pressurizing, but I also do my best to brush off my shoes and jacket when entering my house. I'd guess there's a catch-22 here: You could vacuum it up before turning on the air so that none of the dust will get into the air.. but of course you need air for the vacuum to do anything (vacuum + vacuum = vacuum, not suction)

          To B: I don't see how that applies. Are you saying Moon Dust is too heavy for normal air? That may be. As I
          • I also do my best to brush off my shoes and jacket when entering my house.

            This is not remotely comparable. I'm sure you don't lock yourself in an air-tight room for an hour, with multi-million dollar cleaning equipment.

            You could vacuum it up before turning on the air so that none of the dust will get into the air.. but of course you need air for the vacuum to do anything

            I didn't suggest a vacuum, I suggested washing.

            Are you saying Moon Dust is too heavy for normal air?

            No, I was referring to dust in a vacuu

    • Re:How the hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by oni ( 41625 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:34AM (#18401255) Homepage
      dust on the moon falls back to the ground at the same speed as a dropped hammer

      yes but you're missing an important part - the moon's gravity is so weak, you could probably throw a hammer and put it into orbit, because the speed of a dropped hammer is actually pretty low.

      So the concern is that some mechanical process, maybe a fast spinning wheel or maybe the use of explosives, will actually put dust grains into orbit. It turns out, the moon already has a very thin atmosphere:

      http://zebu.uoregon.edu/~soper/Moon/atmosphere.htm l [uoregon.edu]

      composed of a few atoms that are basically in orbit. So the point is, it is possible to create a dust atmosphere on the moon. We want to be careful when we start mining or whatever. We don't want to make that atmosphere significantly worse, because that dust will gum up machines.
      • Re:How the hell? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Control Group ( 105494 ) * on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:48AM (#18401401) Homepage
        you could probably throw a hammer and put it into orbit, because the speed of a dropped hammer is actually pretty low

        I kind of doubt it. For a circular orbit at a distance of 1km above the lunar surface, the velocity of the hammer would have to be ~1500m/s. That's more than 3,000 mph/5,400 kph. That'd be a hell of a toss.

        Unless, of course, my math is wrong, which is possible - but escape velocity with respect to lunar gravity from the surface of the moon is ~2.5km/s, so the number passes the smell test.
        • by oni ( 41625 )
          no, you're right. A human couldn't throw a hammer and put it into orbit.

          But the concern about dust is (I think) as I stated.
          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            In point of fact, I agree with you - but I just couldn't resist the temptation to do a bit of orbital math. And, of course, I'm a pedantic jackass.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mpe ( 36238 )
          I kind of doubt it. For a circular orbit at a distance of 1km above the lunar surface, the velocity of the hammer would have to be ~1500m/s. That's more than 3,000 mph/5,400 kph. That'd be a hell of a toss.

          Even if it didn't hit anything there's no way that kind of orbit would be remotley stable. Whilst The Moon does not have any appreciable atmosphere it does have mascons, which means you cannot treat it's gravity as being from a point source so close to the surface.
      • by mpe ( 36238 )
        yes but you're missing an important part - the moon's gravity is so weak, you could probably throw a hammer and put it into orbit, because the speed of a dropped hammer is actually pretty low.

        Lunar gravity isn't that low. Though there certainly are bodies where throwing a tool (or rock) means that there is a good chance putting it into an orbit which is likely to result in it hitting you.
      • by suitti ( 447395 )
        Electrostatics. Moon dust gets everywhere and sticks. Drop a hammer, and it actually falls.
      • by khallow ( 566160 )

        So the concern is that some mechanical process, maybe a fast spinning wheel or maybe the use of explosives, will actually put dust grains into orbit. It turns out, the moon already has a very thin atmosphere:

        If it's not escape velocity, then the orbit will intersect the Moon. Hence your dust problem lasts no longer than one orbit. On the Moon, escape velocity is 2.4 km/s. Some types of explosives would be able to generate motion that fast. I can see a short term problem when that dust comes down, but no

  • Pave the moon! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tim the Gecko ( 745081 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:00AM (#18400919)
    There's an interesting story on the BBC site [bbc.co.uk]. Apparently you can microwave the lunar dust and get it to fuse together. Robots could prepare the surface before the humans arrive and make it safer.
    • by Ponga ( 934481 )
      ...
      Why the hell not! In the process, we could start some freeway projects, put up several strip malls and start a few master planned communities! We'll feel right at home up there!!1!
  • Computers (Score:3, Funny)

    by cyberbob2351 ( 1075435 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:04AM (#18400959) Homepage
    Why not just build large datacenters on the moon?

    Seriously, we can power it all with solar power, and host all of our websites there. The lag isn't so bad (rougly 2 seconds to get a packet back at lightspeed). The heat from the machines could be used to warm up habitable spaces in the shade.

    Best yet, all those computers will just soak up the dust like a magnet. Or, perhaps they could just launch thousands of those air dust cans with the mission...
    • by Bastard of Subhumani ( 827601 ) on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:23AM (#18401151) Journal

      Why not just build large datacenters on the moon?
      Is there a server version of Vista? If so, that'll resolve the problem of how to suck in a vacuum.
    • That would work, if you didn't mind 14 days of downtime due to a solar power outtage.

      If you want solar powered servers, I'd stick them at a Lagrange point (L4 or L5). Stable with an unimpeded view of the sun.

      • by maxume ( 22995 )
        If it has to 'make sense', why not use the energy used to put stuff into orbit to power the datacenter for many, many years and avoid the hassle of having to maintain a global network just to maintain communications?
        • <Professor Frink Voice>Well I'm sure you could, theoretically, NOT *flavin* launch a data center into space. *Muhaivin*</Professor Frink Voice>

    • That could be marketed as Off-site Backup that is out of this world!
    • Discovery channel's study of the nerd:
      ...The sleeping pattern of the computer nerd is one of its own. Instead of following the pattern of the sun, he follows the pattern of the moon; this due largely to the fact that he can get better ping times of his home satellite dish, made out of a Pringles can and aluminum foil, than through conventional means...
  • That looks a lot like a series of tubes to me. Forget moon dust. You can download entire books.
  • A series of tubes that uses electrical energy. Ted Stevens wonders: Will it use IPv4 or IPv6?
    • by emor8t ( 1033068 )
      Of course it will use IPv11(ty), IPv6 takes care of all the IP address on earth, but what about the IP address for the aliens, and the albino brain chiggers...
  • answer may be to create a flexible tube with magnetic coils spaced at regular intervals along its length that could suck up the iron-heavy dust.
    Another advantage of these tubes is that the astronauts will be able to check their email and surf the internet.
  • The main problem.. (Score:4, Informative)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi@@@evcircuits...com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @10:57AM (#18401489) Homepage
    The problem with moon dust is that it's very abrasive and erodes anything very quickly, another problem is that it's mainly electrically charged.
  • Will a vacuum even work inside a vacuum?
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
    The lunar surface dust holds the records of millions, billions of years of impacts and other events at the lunar surface. Which in turn are records of object trajectories through the solar system, which leave fingerprints of their momentum in the 3D surface.

    We certainly should be harvesting as much of the local resources for exploration and human colonization. But we should do as much as we can with current science and technology (which is quite a lot) to read those records and preserve their info before de
    • by Jerf ( 17166 )
      Of all the crazy reasons I've heard not to colonize the moon, this is the second silliest.

      The information you're talking about is basically holographic. "Destroying" (a loaded term; "perturbing" would be a lot closer) even 1% of the Moon's surface couldn't even be said to destroy 1% of the useful data, because we just won't need it.

      Moreover, the Moon is not the only body in the Solar System that will have such a record.

      And this all assumes that information will ever actually be extractable and useful for an
      • Even sillier than the strawman you felt compelled to mention about Lunar ecology is the part where you totally ignored what I posted in that simple comment:

        We certainly should be harvesting as much of the local resources for exploration and human colonization.

        Why don't you try telling your story about "loaded terms" to someone whose post you actually read. So I can talk to someone else, someone reasonable about the unique records that should just be copied into data thoroughly before destroying it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by PitaBred ( 632671 )
          Records of what, meteorite impacts? That have obscured other meteorite impacts? That as a whole, over the surface of the moon, just created a pretty much even distribution of impacts, so much so that studying one location is the same as studying almost any other location, not to mention that this is of very limited value anyway? Take a statistics course, kid.
          • If it were an even distribution, then the moon wouldn't have any craters in its dust. And of course the different locations record different impacts, therefore different trajectories. Creating a 3D record about as "obscuured" as, say, the muddy bottom of Earth's oceans. Limited value to the ignorant, especially the conceited ignorant, who shouldn't be shouting about Lunar science policy just because they aren't good enough at actual science to have a real opinion.

            Statistics? Why don't you look into basic sc
            • by Jerf ( 17166 )

              If it were an even distribution, then the moon wouldn't have any craters in its dust.

              • Take a pan of mud, say, one foot by one foot. Start with a flat surface.
              • Start throwing stones in it.
              • When you throw the stones in any way that results in a smooth surface, then I will listen to your stupid claims to understand science better than we do.

              Your point is so stupid it boggles the mind. Try it. The craters will lay on top of each other, not cancel!

              When backyard science can contradict your claims, you should to

              • Even if we had never sent expeditions to the Moon, we'd know that its surface isn't smooth.

                Your mind boggles so easily because you are both a rock-bottom fool, and from all the rattling from your loud mouth. While it's boggling you ignore that you started flaming me, after I posted something sensible that you disagreed with like an obnoxious jerk.

                Goodbye, dummy.
  • .... but I noticed that there are hot and cold sides to the moon. Shifting with a lunar day/night cycle.

    What would it take to harness the temp difference between these two sides to generate energy?

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