ZAP Lunar Simulant readies space-bound hardware

By Eric Peterson | Jul 15, 2013

Mike Weinstein, founder, president, and jack-of-all-trades at Zybek Advanced Products, didn't set out to replicate moon dust—he just wanted to help Denver's Johns Manville make better fiberglass. Then NASA came knocking on Weinstein's door about five years ago looking for a way to make “lunar simulant” to test on anything the agency might send to the Moon. “The Moon is actually one-third glass,” says Weinstein. “Micrometeorites constantly pelt the surface, mixing it up and melting it.” To mimic this chaotic process, Zybek's industrial plasma system focuses a megawatt of electricity to melt sand and other minerals at temperatures above 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is lunar simulant Zybek sells for $7,000 to $80,000 a ton to NASA as well as other space-oriented entities like the University of Colorado, Lockheed Martin, and Ball Aerospace. Weinstein has an interesting culinary metaphor for making faux moon dust: “It's like baking a cake,” he says. Business plans are a bit less predictable, adds Weinstein, noting he has entered the sports testing and measurement as an odd complement to his primary business. “There is no way I could have planned this.”

Made by Zybek Advanced Products, Inc., Boulder, www.zybekap.com.