BALTIMORE -- Most people tied down to a desk job go out of their way to look for a breath of fresh air. But Bob Moores Jr. is trying to catch a different wind.

Moores, a development manager with the Black & Decker tool company here, is traveling to Egypt to drill into a pit at the base of the Great Pyramid to sample the 4,600-year-old air. The project is part of an expedition sponsored by the Egyptian government's Antiquities Organization and the National Geographic Society.

"I've always been fascinated by ancient monumental construction," Moores said in an interview before leaving. "The pyramids, the Incas -- how did they do it without the technology?"

He admitted that the air in a pit that is part of the burial chambers for the Pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, might not be as pristine as it was 4,600 years ago because of the oxidation over the centuries.

But from the sample, he explained, scientists hope to compare the levels of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere to see what harmful effects have been generated by modern life styles.

Preservationists are also interested in the project. According to Elie Rogers, the project coordinator for National Geographic, if artifacts are found, the tests will help show what kind of environment has preserved them. By studying the air's composition, researchers hope to duplicate these conditions eventually and better preserve ancient works of art.

Moores said he learned of the National Geographic trip in a newspaper article in late 1985, which said the society planned to ask Black & Decker for the loan of a special drill. That piece of equipment, called a lunar drill, was used to take ground samples on several Apollo moon flights.

Moores went to his drawing board immediately. "I knew that drill wouldn't work," he explained. "The whole point was to prevent the exchange of {new} air with the old. I also knew the rock being drilled was soft. So, I sketched out an idea."

When National Geographic finally approached the tool manufacturer in April, Moores was ready with a specially designed air lock as well as the proper drill. National Geographic liked his ideas and asked him to join the expedition as part of the team.

Rogers said Moores will do the drilling. "We couldn't embark without him," he said. "The beauty of this is it is a nondestructive investigation. We want to sample and measure the environment, take pictures, and then we'll seal the pit, according to our agreement with the Egyptian government. We needed Moores to drill . . . . It's a perfect marriage of his technology and our ingenuity."

The pit is apparently identical to one that was opened in 1954. The rectangular floor lies 15 feet below ground level. It is 10 feet deep, eight feet wide and 100 feet long. Forty-one limestone blocks cover the top, each five feet thick.

Moores said the drilling will be a slow process, one inch at a time. If no leaks are discovered, it should take about four days, he estimates. Otherwise, they will have to seal any new holes and begin drilling again.

During the drilling, Moores' air lock will be bolted to the rock in an effort to prevent new air from mixing with the old. After drilling the hole, he will insert a metal tube, and the air will be sucked by a vacuum device into a two-gallon bottle and sealed. The sample will be sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's center in Boulder, Colo., to be analyzed.

Once the team has the air sample, it is to insert cameras into the pit in the same hole and photograph the interior. Nobody knows exactly what will be seen.

"Some speculate they will find a boat with a sail, which the Egyptians called a day boat, used to travel along with the sun," Moores said. "Others think they'll find the cargo for the boat found in the first pit, such as beds, chairs, vases, art and jewelry. The ancients believed you could take it with you. Many have theorized the day boats were covered in gold."

Moores, who has helped develop a rivet remover used during the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and has 24 patents for tools, said he was thrilled at the chance to be part of the expedition.

"This is an extremely worthwhile trip for me; I never knew this opportunity would exist," he said. "I feel really fortunate that they asked me first, as this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."