"I'm one of those weird people who like to stick things in ordinary kitchen microwave ovens to see what happens," Taylor confessed to several hundred scientists at the Lunar Exploration Advisory Group (LEAG) conference at NASA's Johnson Space Center last month.
Apropos to the moon, he once put a small pile of lunar soil brought back by the Apollo astronauts into a microwave oven. And he found that it melted "lickety-split," he said, within 30 seconds at only 250 watts.
This observation has inspired Taylor to imagine all kinds of machinery for sending to the moon that could fuse lunar dust into useful solids.
"Picture a buggy pulled behind a rover that is outfitted with a set of magnetrons," that is, the same gizmo at the guts of a microwave oven. "With the right power and microwave frequency, an astronaut could drive along, sintering the soil as he goes, making continuous brick down half a meter deep--and then change the power settings to melt the top inch or two to make a glass road," he suggested.
"Or say that you want a radio telescope," he continued. "Find a round crater and run a little microwave 'lawnmower' up and down the crater's sides to sinter a smooth surface. Hang an antenna from the middle--voila, instant Arecibo!" he exclaimed, referring to the giant 305-meter-diameter radio telescope in Puerto Rico formed out of a natural circular valley.
But the idea has promise: Sintered rocket landing pads, roads, bricks for habitats, radiation shielding--useful products and dust abatement, all at once.
"The only limit," says Taylor, "is imagination."(link)
Now this is something usefull. That's why I'm thinking NASA will screw it up somehow. Unless somehow JPL gets this little project. In which case the only real limit will be how much NASA sucks blood out of JPL.