(Image: Illustration showing lunar rover carrying lunar dirt “sucked up” by pneumatic digger towards storage tower (for later use). Credit: DigitalSpace / Jeroen Lapre)

Its not until one leaves our blessed home world that one realizes how hard it is to live lunar side.

Without an atmosphere settlers will be unable to drill beneath the surface (due to friction between lunar rocks and drill bits), and unless one has an endless supply of labor using shovels and pick axes may take too long.

Despite the difficulty, one company has approached the problem from a different angle, choosing to use gas to drill lunar holes instead of striking the surface with metal.

(Space.com) In detail, this so-called pneumatic excavation mechanism involves gas pumped into the ground through a thin tube encased by a wider hose. When the gas escapes, carrying along material from the ground, it travels up through the hose to a storage container.

“It’s kind of like a vacuum cleaner, but the reverse,” Zacny said. Instead of using suction, the machine injects gas down to draw material up.

The contraption weighs a lot less than conventional digging tools, though it begs the question: Where will future moon-dwellers get the gas needed to operate the machine?

In the article Zacny suggests using either CO2 from astronauts nostrils or exhaust from the left over fuel (of the lander) in order to acquire the gas they need.

After “sucking up” enough dust, future colonists could simply convert the lunar regolith into oxygen, as well as sift the soil for metals, minerals and helium-3.

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