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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Moon dust could create problems for lunar explorers: Report

The Moon's regolith, which is the layer of unconsolidated solid material that is covering the bedrock of the Moon is a matter of concern for the astronauts.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 25, 2019 3:18:36 pm
moon dust, lunar dust, dust on the moon surface, moon surface dust, is moon dust harmful, what is moon dust, why is moon dust an issue for astronauts The Moon’s regolith contains several types of reactive dust. These include silicon dioxide (50 per cent), iron oxide and calcium oxide (45 per cent), and other oxides (5 per cent). (Image source: ISRO)

The dust on the surface of the Moon could be a problem for astronauts exploring the Earth’s satellite. According to a report by Space.com, the 12 astronauts who have walked on the moon, had kicked up the powdery surface.

“The more time you spend there, the more you get covered from helmet to boots with lunar dust,” the report said quoting Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Like Aldrin, Apollo 17 commander Gene Cernan too had expressed similar concerns in a briefing that followed his mission, which was the last human lunar mission. “I think dust is probably one of our greatest inhibitors to a nominal operation on the moon. I think we can overcome other physiological or physical or mechanical problems except dust,” the report said quoting Cernan.

One key aspect of the Moon dust is that it has an abrasive nature and a distinct smell, notes the report. Aldrin, according to the report, remembers that the Moon’s dust had stained their suits and equipment during their Apollo 11 mission and the dust smelled like burnt charcoal or the ashes which are leftover at a fireplace on which a little water is sprinkled over.

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Another aspect as the report points out is that Moon dust could pose a serious health risk to the astronauts. Harrison “Jack” Schmitt of Apollo 17 mission developed a sharp reaction to the lunar dust, and developed the first recorded case of  extraterrestrial hay fever.

As NASA’s Artermis Moon missions come up, the question over Moon dust and its impact is unlikely to go away anytime soon, though in many countries scientists are already exploring the topic in detail as the report notes. After all, for humans, the next frontier is the hope that we can colonise the Moon before we consider Mars.

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