American Society of Civil Engineers


Lunar Dust Levitation


by Joshua E. Colwell, (Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Central Florida, Orlando, FL 32816-2385. E-mail: jcolwell@physics.ucf.edu), Scott R. Robertson, (Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Colorado, 390 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0390), Mihály Horányi, (Lab. for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Univ. of Colorado, 392 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0392), Xu Wang, (Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Colorado, 390 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0390), Andrew Poppe, (Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Colorado, 390 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0390), and Patrick Wheeler, (Dept. of Physics, Univ. of Colorado, 390 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0390)

Journal of Aerospace Engineering, Vol. 22, No. 1, January 2009, pp. 2-9, (doi:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)0893-1321(2009)22:1(2))

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Document type: Journal Paper
Special Section: NASA Exploration 2006 Granular Materials Workshop: Science and Engineering of the Lunar Soil
Abstract: Observations of a lunar “horizon glow” by several Surveyor spacecraft on the lunar surface in the 1960s and detections of dust particle impacts by the Apollo 17 Lunar Ejecta and Meteoroid Experiment have been explained as the result of micron-sized charged particles lifting off the surface. The surface of the Moon is exposed to the solar wind and solar UV radiation causing photoemission, so it develops a surface charge and an electric field near the surface. Dust particles injected into this plasma from the lunar regolith, whether from human and mechanical activity or from meteoroid impacts or electrostatic forces, may be stably levitated above the surface and may undergo preferential deposition onto areas of the lunar surface (or equipment) with different electrical properties. This can lead to a net transport as well as contamination of sensitive equipment. This paper reports on new experimental measurements and numerical simulations of the plasma environment above the lunar surface and the related behavior of charged dust.


ASCE Subject Headings:
Moon
Dust
Spacecraft
Space exploration