Expanding the Lunar Base
Section 2.1.
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Sintering Roads with Solar Power

In 1988, a paper titled "Enabling Lunar and Space Missions by Laser Power Transmission" was published by R. J. DeYoung, J. E. Nealy, D. H. Humes, and W. E. Meador of NASA's Langely Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Among the proposals from DeYoung, et al., is to use a high-intensity laser beam to heat the lunar surface to the melting point, presumably from orbit. When it cools, we'll have a hard, glassy surface for roadways and launch pads.

A 1 megawatt laser heating a 1-meter diameter spot for 10 minutes will melt the regolith to a depth of 2 cm.

We definitely will need roads and walkways around the moon base. Besides increasing the efficiency of ground transportation, they reduce problems with the pervasive moon dust that we expect to be a major issue for a permanent lunar habitat.

The orbiting laser trick might work, but we probably wouldn't do it. The cost and extensive infrastructure we need for satellites makes this the most expensive way I can imagine for sintering moon dust into roadways. However, the fundamental concept of using solar power to make roads might have some merit.

Solar radiation provides us 1.4 kilowatt per square meter. Now, imagine a little robot carrying a parabolic reflector 25 meters across. The robot drives along at a slow crawl, 4 meters per hour, making a road 1.5 meters wide as it goes. This system could make 12 kilometers of roadway each year.

This isn't exactly a super highway, but the roadways would keep growing, year by year. We could build roads with no human attention required except for periodic maintenance on the robot, so this might be the best way we will find for paving roads on the moon.

Expanding the Lunar Base

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