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Overview:

NASA is seeking materials that are capable of withstanding the lunar surface environment. These materials will ideally be used for large structures, such as habitats, but are not limited to these applications. Materials made from locally sourced constituents (e.g. lunar dust/regolith, crewed mission waste) are of highest interest.

 

Background:

NASA is working to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon within the next decade to uncover new scientific discoveries and lay the foundation for private companies to build a lunar economy. In order to build infrastructure elements on the lunar surface, it is important to identify materials that are capable of withstanding the lunar surface environment. Therefore, NASA is seeking materials suitable for use in the lunar environment that are:

  1. Able to survive the lunar environment
  2. Can be made from locally sourced materials. The bulk chemical composition of lunar regolith/dust varies across the lunar surface, but is about 50% SiO2, 15% Al2O3, 10% CaO, 10% MgO, 5% TiO2 and 5-15% iron with lesser amounts of sodium, potassium, chromium, and zirconium. Other materials, such as crewed mission waste, could also be used.

 

Constraints:

Required material attributes:

  • Able to withstand cyclical temperature swings from -200°C to +130°C.
  • Capable of tolerating thermal shocks (launch/landing pad applications only)
  • Low coefficient of thermal expansion (less than 20×10^-6/°C)
  • Materials will ideally be made from locally sourced constituents (e.g. lunar dust/regolith, mission waste)

Desired material attributes:

  • Able to dissipate heat and accommodate the lack of atmospheric convective heat transfer
  • Resistant to micrometeorite impact (i.e. cannot shatter)
  • Resistant to multiple forms of radiation (solar wind and galactic cosmic ray bombardment)
  • Materials do not need to be made of the same composition throughout
  • Can be readily repaired (self-healing is ideal)
  • Non-toxic if humans are exposed to it (or human byproducts like oxygen, carbon dioxide, or water)
  • 3000psi and above in compressive strength
  • Resistance to “aging” in the lunar environment (degradation over time due to exposure to the thermal environment, radiation (including UV light), dust, etc.)
  • Prevents the growth of microbes/bacteria
  • Ideally able to accommodate small changes in the chemistry of the local feedstock material

 

Possible Solution Areas:

  • Materials for extreme environments (i.e. oil and gas, industry, aerospace, etc.)
  • Metal alloys
  • Recyclable materials
  • Highly durable ceramics

 

Field of use and intended applications:

Establish sustainable infrastructure for permanent human presence on the Moon.