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Industrial modification of the lunar atmosphereThe sources and sinks of the present trace lunar atmosphere can be accounted for. In particular, it is clear that the solar wind is the primary agent for rapidly removing gases, other than H2 which can escape thermally. But the solar wind has only a finite capability for stripping. If gases are added at rates approaching 100 g/sec, an atmosphere will begin to accumulate. Transition to a state where thermal escape dominates, solar wind loss occurs when the atmosphere has accumulated a total mass of about 108 kg. Assuming that disturbing the lunar regolith liberates about 10-4 by mass of trapped gases, this implies that some kinds of mining operation could handle up to 109 tons of material before creating a long lived, albeit still exceedingly tenuous, atmosphere which would have no appreciable influence on most lunar activities. Should the lunar atmosphere ever exceed an abundance matching that of the Earth at 120 km altitude, ever larger UV wavelengths ranges would be inhibited or lost, as would probably be the ability to use the Moon as a base for very low frequency radio astronomy.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Legacy CDMS
Document Type
Conference Paper
Smith, Harlan J.
(Texas Univ. Austin, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Arizona Univ., Resources of Near-Earth Space: Abstracts
Subject Category
Lunar And Planetary Exploration
Accession Number
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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