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Reproduce the Moon’s surface environment on Earth

Continuing research is being conducted globally into using the Moon as a forward base for deep space exploration, and Korea is no exception in these efforts. THE Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT, Chairman Kim, Byung-suk) has successfully implemented an electrostatic environment that simulates conditions on the surface of the Moon, not in space but on Earth. Researchers also evaluated its performance and effectiveness.

One of the most serious threats when performing lunar missions is the environment of the Moon’s surface, which is electrostatically charged. Due to its extremely thin atmosphere, the Moon is directly exposed to solar ultraviolet rays, X-rays, solar wind, terrestrial plasma, etc. So, dust clouds on the Moon exhibit strong static electricity. The Moon’s electrostatic environment is positively charged during the day and negatively charged during the night.

Since the Moon has almost no atmosphere, dust can be easily blown away, even by small impacts, due to minimal air resistance. Electrostatically charged regolith particles can cause serious damage to space exploration devices when they get stuck on them. For example, when stuck on photovoltaic cells, these particles degrade the efficiency of electricity production. In manned missions, they can damage the spacesuits that protect astronauts or enter the respiratory system, leading to potentially fatal consequences.

The KICT research team led by Dr. Shin Hyusoung (with lead researcher Chung, Taeil and Dr. Park, Seungsoo) developed a chamber designed to simulate electrical charging conditions. The objective is to implement an electrostatic environment resembling the surface of the Moon.

The chamber developed by KICT integrates ultraviolet lamps, electron beams and plasma generators to positively or negatively charge the surfaces of test objects. In the future, this equipment can be used to electrostatically charge a replica of the lunar surface using ultraviolet rays and electron beams. This will help determine the amount of material adhering to the rovers and anticipate potential problems. This technology goes beyond simple electrostatic charging to simulate the electrically charged environment of the Moon under various conditions, such as daytime or nighttime environments and under the influence of Earth’s plasma.

The greatest achievement of this research work lies in the ability of the developed equipment to measure, quantitatively and independently, the amount of photoelectric current generated, which has the most significant effect on the lunar dust charge during the day of the Moon. The error between the experimental measurement obtained in this research and the corresponding theoretical value was approximately 5%, demonstrating the reliability of the developed technology.

Thus, the KICT attempts succeeded not only in reproducing a Moon-like environment, in which ground dust remains electrostatically charged, but also in developing evaluation technology for this. This research work laid the foundation for equipping a large-scale dirty thermal vacuum chamber (DTVC) with the equipment developed to implement an electrostatically charged environment and further evaluate its performance.

Dr. Shin, who led this project, said: “Our research presents the possibility of effectively integrating the full-scale DTVC, developed by Korea for the first time in the world, with lunar dust loading technology. This solution will serve as a test bed for a series of technologies aimed at implementing In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) on the Moon in the future, addressing and responding to a series of potential technological challenges posed by electrically charged lunar dust.


This research was supported by the KICT Research Program (Project No. 20230081-001, Development of Environmental Simulators and Advanced Construction Technologies on TRL6 under Extreme Conditions) funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT. An article explaining the results of this research was published in the latest issue of Aerospacea renowned international journal in the Aerospace engineering field.

(IF: 2.6, quartile JCR: Q1 in ENGINEERING, AEROSPACE category).

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