Apr 27 2023 Posted: 09:00 IST

A lunar rover which was due to land on the Moon this week carrying samples developed in a lab at Dublin City University (DCU).

The plastic and metal strips were attached to the wheels of the spacecraft and were to be used to study the way moon dust sticks to different surfaces.

Japanese lunar exploration company iSpace was behind the mission but deemed the attempt to be unsuccessful after communication was lost with the unmanned spacecraft.

"We have to assume that we could not complete the landing on the lunar surface," said iSpace CEO Takeshi Hakamada.

If successful, it would have been the first lunar landing by a private company.

Polymer and metal samples were produced in the DCU School of Chemical Sciences and were affixed to the wheel of the Rashid Lunar Rover which was designed and constructed by engineers and scientists at the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates.

The project is part of a collaboration with the European Astronaut Centre in the European Space Agency (ESA).

Moon dust is very sharp, dry, fine and difficult to reproduce on Earth.

It can interfere with electronics and can stick to everything from astronauts' boots to gloves, suits, cords and tools.

Eight sample surfaces, a combination of polymer and metal samples with micro and nano-scale patterns on their surface, as well as unpatterned control samples, were prepared for the lunar rover in the labs at DCU with the help of funding from both Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council.

The samples were launched to the Moon aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida in December.

Scientists at DCU, including the project lead Dr Susan Kelleher, gathered this evening to watch the lunar landing live. Dr Kelleher is a Funded Investigator at CÚRAM.

"We were very excited to be here on the day to see it getting so far, so not matter what happens I think it is a huge outcome here for DCU, for Ireland and for the international space industry," Dr Kelleher said.

"This project will help us to understand how we can solve the sticky problem of moon dust for future human or robot explorers on the Moon," Dr Susan Kelleher said.

"Working with these types of materials teaches us even more about developing new surfaces that can kill bacteria, which will have applications here on Earth, for example, in healthcare settings and in the International Space Station too," she added.

The lander, standing just over two metres tall and weighing 340kg, has been in lunar orbit since last month.

Its descent and landing was fully automated and it was supposed to reestablish communication as soon as it touched down.

Officials from iSpace said they would continue to try and establish contact with the spacecraft, which was carrying payloads from several countries, including a lunar rover from the United Arab Emirates.


This article was republished from RTE News. The original can be found here - https://www.rte.ie/news/dublin/2023/0425/1379065-moon-samples/


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