Forging a Lunar Shield

Forging a Lunar Shield
Forging A Lunar Shield
By Abigail Glover
For Jacob Yates, science fiction transcends mere imagination; it is a spring of information that has continued to shape his career.
Though his childhood aspiration of gazing up at the solar system from within a lunar glass dome remains a distant dream, his work lays the essential groundwork for such a vision. As part of the collaborative endeavor ARMOR (Advanced Research in Moon Operations and Resiliency), Yates and his team are poised to illuminate the intricate dynamics between micrometeoroid impacts and lunar regolith – insights that could redefine our understanding of ejecta debris / spacecraft interactions, extravehicular activity (EVA), and off-world habitats.
Leading the investigation, Yates orchestrated a series of impact tests using Exolith Lab's Lunar Highland simulant (LHS-1) within Texas A&M's Hypervelocity Impact Laboratory (HVIL). The lab boasts an array of projectile materials including steel, aluminum, nylon, glass, polycarbonate, tungsten, and titanium. HVIL houses a cutting-edge two-stage light gas gun capable of velocities ranging from 1.5 to 8.0 km/s (3,355-18,000 miles/hr) for standard operations. To mimic lunar surface conditions, 10 cm of regolith simulant was sieved, vibrated, raked, compacted, and then repeated until the cylindrical receptacle was full at 5000 cm3 (5.3 quarts) before being placed inside the target vacuum chamber. Projectiles were then launched from the light gas gun, with high-speed cameras capturing the interaction.
The Initial Round of impact tests yielded promising results, highlighting the exceptional performance of the regolith simulant under such conditions, with depth penetration being fairly shallow. Encouraged by these findings, Yates and his team are now venturing into the next phases of experimentation by introducing an epoxy additive to LHS-1 for comparison. In doing so, the team aims to offer a comprehensive evaluation of the simulant's conduct and its viability as a protective layer against even larger impacts on the lunar surface.
"I can tell you in the first round of impact tests, the regolith simulant performed extremely well," Yates remarked. "Because of that, we are already planning for another round using Martian simulant in either the fall or early spring.”
The implications of this research provide insights into the prerequisites for secure lunar habitation and, by extension, exploration beyond. By knowing what size of particles micrometeoroid ejecta is blocked or even vaporized, the need for extensive repairs in the context of long-term extraterrestrial habitats could be significantly reduced or even eliminated.
The work being done by the ARMOR team also resonates with the broader scientific community engaged in studying space debris and its consequences. One of the notable findings in Jacob's research is the observation that lithic impacts can lead to additional fusing of regolith. Such data lays the basis for understanding the complex interplay between different types of impactors and the resultant effects on regolith particle structure.
In a universe where every impact leaves a mark, Jacob Yates is making his own mark by unraveling the secrets of regolith and its interaction with such projectiles.
His innovative research not only contributes to the dream of one day humanity living on the lunar surface, but also holds the promise of safer and more enduring space exploration endeavors. As we continue to reach for the stars, it's researchers like Jacob and his team who remind us that understanding the cosmic pathway is essential for ensuring the success of our future interplanetary journeys.