The Indian space agency has got the patent for its method of
manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant or simply lunar/moon soil.
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.
May 18, the Indian Patent Office granted patent to ISRO for an invention
as to the method of manufacturing highland lunar soil simulant.
patent is valid for 20 years from the date of filing the application,
i.e., May 15, 2014. The inventors are: I. Venugopal, S.A. Kannan,
Shamrao, V. Chandra Babu (all from ISRO), S. Anbazhagan, S. Arivazhagan,
C.R. 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.
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, U.R. Rao Satellite
Centre (URSC), formerly ISRO Satellite Centre, had told IANS.
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.
geologists had told ISRO that near Salem in Tamil Nadu, there were
“anorthosite” rocks that would be similar to the features of moon soil
The ISRO finalised to take the “anorthosite” rocks from Sithampoondi and Kunnamalai villages in Tamil Nadu for moon soil.
said the rocks were crushed to the required size and moved to Bengaluru
where its Lunar Terrain Test Facility was located and the test bed was
As per the patent papers filed, the invention relates to
a lunar simulant prepared from a terrestrial analogue and a method for
producing and manufacturing it.
The simulant is almost equivalent to the regolith of the lunar highland region and comparable with Apollo 16 return samples.
lunar soil simulant can be used for scientific studies of lunar terrain
relating to mobility/trafficability of rover for scientific
explorations or for the study of geo-technical/mechanical properties of
lunar soil for understanding the engineering behaviour of lunar regolith
or to carry out fundamental research work (theoretical and
experimental) to postulate a broad design philosophy for realising civil
engineering structures on the Moon surface, and to make a pathway to
lunar locomotive engineering.
Lunar exploration requires a full
understanding of the physical and chemical properties of lunar surface
soil as most of the building materials have to be produced out of the
regolith for human settlement on the Moon.
As per the papers
filed by ISRO, compositionally, the lunar soils fall into two broad
groups: The highland soils, which are developed on anorthositic bedrock,
and mare soils, which are developed on basaltic bedrock. Mare soils can
be further sub-classified as to high or low titanium content soils.
soils are relatively enriched in aluminium and calcium, while mare
soils are relatively enriched in iron, magnesium and titanium. The use
of lunar simulants is focused on physical characteristics of the lunar
regolith for undertaking landing and transportation activities.
“There are more than 30 lunar simulants that have been produced to date, some of which have been exhausted,” ISRO said.
Most of the countries produced simulants representing the lunar mare region.
lunar highland crust occupies 83 per cent of the lunar surface.
However, only limited number of simulants represent the regolith of the
lunar highland region, ISRO said.
According to the Indian space
agency, most of the future missions propose for soft landing on the
lunar highland region. Hence, there is an urgent need for a bulk
quantity of lunar soil simulant, which represents the highland lunar
The lunar soil simulant of the present invention is
exclusively manufactured to represent the lunar highland region. The
regolith of the lunar highland region is mainly derived from
anorthositic rock formation.
The present simulant produced and
manufactured in bulk quantity exactly from similar rock samples
identified and picked out from the Sittampundi Anorthosite Complex,
Moreover, the invention satisfied all aspects, including
mineralogy, bulk chemistry, grain size distribution and geo-mechanical
As the mission to land the Vikram moon lander safely failed earlier, India is planning a similar mission going forward.