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Creation of an artificial lunar atmosphere


THE tenuous nature of the lunar atmosphere is maintained by rapid loss of gases released at the lunar surface. But would such rapid loss still occur if the density of the lunar atmosphere were greatly increased from its present value? Here I seek to answer this question by evaluating quantitatively the atmospheric loss mechanisms operating in the lunar environment. One conclusion is that if the density of the lunar atmosphere is increased, a point can be reached where loss occurs so slowly that it is negligible over human time scales (that is, exponential decay lifetimes are greater than hundreds of years). So the present lunar ‘vacuum’ is a fragile state that should be treated carefully if it is to be preserved or could be modified if so desired.

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VONDRAK, R. Creation of an artificial lunar atmosphere. Nature 248, 657–659 (1974).

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