Understanding lunar soil may be key in colonizing moon

by Jeremia Schrock

It’s one thing to send a man to the moon; it’s another thing to send men to the moon with the intent of colonizing it. However, with a renewed interest in colonizing celestial bodies, laying the groundwork for exactly that kind of undertaking is what one scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is doing.

Il-Sang Ahn is researching the impacts of temperature cycling on the lunar soil, specifically how it influences the soils compaction rates. The compaction rate of the lunar regolith (i.e. the collection of soil, dust and loose rock that sits atop the moon’s surface and what a future space architect would have to build on) has been known to experience drastic changes the deeper it gets, but the causes of such extreme change is unknown.

If the moon’s temperature cycles are determined to be the culprit, then this will impact where future structures can be built. Human activities on the moon could also change the soil’s temperature which would further impact its stability. Ahn’s research may be used to evaluate the long-term cost of building man-made structures on the moon and beyond. Understanding what it takes to build on the moon is one step of many in determining humanities future among the stars.

Lunar soil research

Dr. Il-Sang Ahn describing the methodology of regolith testing. (Photo by Melanie Rohr-INE/UAF)

This projects is funded by Alaska NASA EPSCoR.