Experiments on Electrostatic Charging and Transport of Lunar Dust

Grant #: NNX08AJ03A
Senior Scientist: John Marshall

The issue of lunar dust near the surface and its mitigation is a critical issue that may, in fact, limit lunar exploration. The objective of this research activity is to provide insight into electrostatic properties of the lunar regolith. There is strong evidence that small particles can be lofted up to 100 km into the lunar exosphere which may limit scientific investigations on the Moon. Physical factors regarding levitation of electrostatically charged lunar dust have not been seriously considered by the research community for over four decades now. This project includes the building of new experimental capability and research into detailed mechanisms regarding charging and lofting of lunar dust from first principles. The payoff from this activity is to definitively determine the effect of the large variety of parameters involved in charging lunar dust. These data are invaluable for studies regarding surface-dust mitigation scenarios and also for interpreting large-scale lunar data obtained from a large number of proposed lunar observation satellites.