The Lunar RegolithA thick layer of regolith, fragmental and unconsolidated rock material, covers the entire lunar surface. This layer is the result of the continuous impact of meteoroids large and small and the steady bombardment of charged particles from the sun and stars. The regolith is generally about 4-5 m thick in mare regions and 10-15 m in highland areas (McKay et al., 1991) and contains all sizes of material from large boulders to sub-micron dust particles. Below the regolith is a region of large blocks of material, large-scale ejecta and brecciated bedrock, often referred to as the "megaregolith". Lunar soil is a term often used interchangeably with regolith, however, soil is defined as the subcentimeter fraction of the regolith (in practice though, soil generally refers to the submillimeter fraction of the regolith). Lunar dust has been defined in many ways by different researchers, but generally refers to only the very finest fractions of the soil, less than approx.10 or 20 microns. Lunar soil can be a misleading term, as lunar "soil" bears little in common with terrestrial soils. Lunar soil contains no organic matter and is not formed through biologic or chemical means as terrestrial soils are, but strictly through mechanical comminution from meteoroids and interaction with the solar wind and other energetic particles. Lunar soils are also not exposed to the wind and water that shapes the Earth. As a consequence, in contrast to terrestrial soils, lunar soils are not sorted in any way, by size, shape, or chemistry. Finally, without wind and water to wear down the edges, lunar soil grains tend to be sharp with fresh fractured surfaces.
Noble, Sarah (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Huntsville, AL, United States)