Patent for ISRO process to make moon soil simulant

The Indian space agency has got the patent for its method of manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant or simply lunar/Moon soil. As a part of its Moon landing mission Chandrayaan-2, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had to prepare an artificial moon surface so that the Vikram lander and Pragyaan rover could be tested.

On May 18, the Indian Patent Office granted patent to Isro for the method of manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant. The patent is valid for 20 years from the date of filing the application, i.e., May 15, 2014.

The inventors are I Venugopal, SA Kannan, Shamrao, V Chandra Babu (all from Isro), S Anbazhagan, S Arivazhagan, CR Paramasivam, M Chinnamuthu (all from the Department of Geology, Periyar University, Salem, Tamil Nadu) and K Muthukkumaran from the National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu.

“The surface of the Earth and that of the Moon are entirely different. So we had to create an artificial moon surface and test our rover and lander,” M Annadurai, who retired as director, UR Rao Satellite Centre (URSC), formerly Isro Satellite Centre, said.

Importing lunar soil like substance from the US was a costly affair and Isro looked for a local solution as its need was about 60/70 tonnes of soil.

Many geologists had told Isro that near Salem in Tamil Nadu, there were anorthosite rocks that would be similar to the features of Moon soil or regolith.

Isro decided to use anorthosite rocks from Sithampoondi and Kunnamalai villages in Tamil Nadu to produce its moon soil simulant. The rocks were crushed to the required size and moved to Bengaluru, where Isro’s Lunar Terrain Test Facility is located, and a test bed was created.

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