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Moon Dust/Lunar Dust
It Turns Out There’s A Dark Side To The Moon And It’s Not What You Might Think. And Really, The Side Of The Moon That We Never Get To See From Earth Is Actually More Accurately Called The Far Side Of The Moon Because It Does See Sunlight, But That’s Beside The Point. What I’m Trying To Say Is: The Moon Is Dangerous. Specifically, The Moon’s Dust.

See, When The First People Set Foot On That Small Satellite Body (Moon), They Kicked Up A Storm And Came Back Into The Lunar Module Covered In Dust, And It’s Posed A Problem Ever Since. Some Astronauts Have Even Had A Reaction To It.

In 1972, Apollo 17’s Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt Experienced A Momentary Sneezing Fit, Red Eyes, Itchy Throat, Clogged Sinuses, The Whole Shebang In Response To Moon Dust. And As ‘Not-Fun’ As That Sounds, It Would Still Be Pretty Awesome To Say That You Know You’re Allergic To The Moon. But It Can Actually Also Be Quite A Bit More Serious Than A Touch Of Temporary Hay Fever.

As Space Agencies Across The World Consider More Crewed Missions To The Moon, Researchers Are Delving Into Some Of The Hazards Those Missions Might Face And Lunar Dust Is Much More Of A Factor Than You Might Think. It’s Quite Sharp And Abrasive, Like Tiny Shards Of Glass. Because There’s No Wind On The Moon, Lunar Soil Particles Never Erode. Their Edges Stay Sharp And Pointy, And They Can Tear Up Spacesuits Or Clog Equipment And Keep It From Functioning Properly, Which Is Not So Good. And If You Breathe That Stuff In? Extra Not Good.

Like When Astronauts Come Back In From Stomping Around On The Moon’s Surface, Their Suits Are Covered In The Stuff And They Have To Take Their Helmets Off To Get Out Of The Suit. So, What Kind Of Risk Does Exposure Pose?

To Find Out, A Team At Stony Brook University Took Two Iron-Based Compounds That We Know Are Found On The Moon And Soaked Them In A Solution Designed To Mimic Human Lung Fluid. After About 15 Minutes, The Mixture Had Produced Rather Stunning Amounts Of Hydroxyl Radicals, A Kind Of Reactive Oxygen Compound That Can Do A Lot Of Damage To Biological Tissue On The Cellular Level. And These Particles Aren’t Exactly Easy To Breathe Out—They Can Stay In Your Lungs For Quite A Long Time, Potentially Causing Even More Damage Than The Team Measured Within The 15-Minute Window. And Plus, They’re Sharp. If They Can Tear Up Spacesuits, Imagine What They Can Do To Your Lungs. These Hydroxyl Radicals In Particular Have Been Linked To Lung Damage And Lung Cancer. So, The Team Has Concluded That This Dust Could Be Extremely Dangerous And May Have Long-Term Health Implications.

We Also Think That Silicon Dioxide May Be A Large Part Of The Moon’s Surface Dust Makeup, And We Know Silicon Dioxide Is A Highly Toxic, Lung Disease-Causing Compound As Well. So, This Research Couldn’t Come At A Better Time. Because In 2019, NASA Announced Artemis, Its Mission To Send Humans Back To The Moon By 2024. We’re Looking At A Very Real Need To Figure Out What The Heck To Do About Moon Dust!
Also Read - Loneliest And Emtiest Place In Entire Universe
There’s Lots Of Innovation Happening Already With NASA’s Redesigned Spacesuits, Which Allow For Increased Mobility And Improved Insulation, But They’ve Also Already Taken Into Account The Dust Problem: No Zippers, No Cables, Fewer Creases, And Special Sealant For The Main Components. These Updates Are Definitely An Improvement, But It’s Likely That Even More Thought Is Going To Need To Be Put Into How To Handle Moon Dust, Whether It’s In The Form Of Suit And Equipment Modifications, Or Dust Mitigation Processes Like Vacuum-Cleaning Before Suit Removal. And More Research Still Needs To Be Done Into The Compounds Found On The Moon And How They Could Affect Human Physiology As Astronauts Explore It.

In Fact, A Whole Special Workshop Meeting Will Be Tackling The Dust Issue Head-On Quite Soon, Led By A Professor Alma Mater, William & Mary.

I’m So Excited To Hear What Kind Of Innovations They Come Up With To Solve This Dusty Problem And The Many Other Challenges That Await Us As We Blaze The Path Back To Our Beloved Moon.

What Other Artemis-Era Discoveries And Innovations Do You Want To See Us Cover?

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