Quite recently, the Indian Patent Office has granted a patent to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for its method of manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant or ‘Moon Soil.’ The simulant is produced in bulk by using the similar rock samples found and picked out from Sittampundi Anorthosite Complex, which is located at 67 km from Salem in Tamil Nadu.
The Patent Protection term is 20 years from the date of filing the application, which is 15th May 2014, in this case.
The manufacturing procedure has efficiently satisfied all the critical aspects such as bulk chemistry, mineralogy, geo-mechanical properties, and grain size distribution. As per the Patent Specification filed by the Space Agency, the entire method used for preparing the lunar simulant is reproducible, cost-effective, and easy to scale up in all aspects.
The simulant is a lot similar to the regolith (the layer of loose and unconsolidated solid material, which covers the bedrock of a planet) of the lunar highland region. It can be effectively used to manage the mobility of the rover for scientific exploration and also study the mechanical and geotechnical properties of soil. Additionally, the simulant can also be used in performing fundamental experimental and theoretical research for constructing civil engineering structures on the Moon’s surface and making headway in lunar locomotive engineering.
On the surface of the Moon, there are bright and dark areas, known as Maria (singular – Mare), which are mostly flat, and the highlands, on the other hand, are heavily cratered and mountainous. According to ISRO’s Patent Application, most of the countries across the globe have till now produced the simulants, which represent only the lunar region. ISRO has claimed in its Patent Filing that the highland crust occupies nearly about 83% of the lunar surface, yet only a small number of simulants represent the regolith of this region.
Without any second thoughts, it is time-consuming, expensive, and arduous to produce simulants in large quantities. Therefore, there has always been a need to produce low-priced simulants for diverse lunar applications and to minimize the mission risks involved. The inventors at ISRO have now ingeniously arrived at an effective method to make a lunar simulant, which has a mineralogical and chemical composition, along with geotechnical and mechanical properties similar to that of the lunar soil.
As per various reports, ISRO has announced the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which is similar in configuration to Chandrayaan-2. According to ISRO, Chandrayaan-2 was a highly complex and unique mission as it brought together a Lander, Rover, and Orbiter to explore the Moon’s south pole. It aimed at enhancing ISRO’s understanding of the Moon, promoting global alliances, stimulating the advancement of technology, and inspiring the future generation of scientists and explorers.