R2-D2 rovers could defend against Moon dust
BY KEITH COOPER
Posted: 3 July 2013
Robotic rovers sent to explore the Moon will face a major hazard in the form of electrostatically elevated dust, according to a report being presented today at the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) by Professor Farideh Honary of the University of Lancaster.
Honary, working with the ONERA, the French Aerospace Lab, simulated a rover on two patches of the Moon, one in full daylight and the other at the terminator. Dust was then added to the simulation and in both cases dust would rise up above the rover. However, in full daylight the dust would move away from the rover, while at sunset or sunrise the dust moves inward towards the rover before accumulating directly above it. This would potentially lead to a rover gathering large amounts of dust on top of it. Given the slow length of the lunar day - 14 days of daylight followed by 14 days of night, sunset and sunrise can last quite a bit longer than they do on Earth.
Although more tests need to be conducted to determine exactly how much dust would gather on a lunar rover and what would be considered a safe amount, one possible solution she says is to build a dome shaped rover so the dust simply falls to the ground rather than gathering on flat surfaces. Consequently, perhaps lunar rovers will end up looking more like R2-D2 than Short Circuit in the future.