General, Research, Technology

The main problem of future moon colonizers is dust

Humanity wants to not only return to the moon,but also in the future still establish a colony there. Such serious plans require serious preparation, especially given the extremely unfriendly local environment. In an effort to find ways to protect against the main threat to the life and health of future lunar colonizers, the European Space Agency is conducting a large study of lunar dust, trying to determine its level of danger for both humans and the equipment that will be used there.

Long Before Neil Armstring's Legstepped to the bottom of the sea of ​​Tranquility, scientists and engineers were actively studying the danger of moon dust. The fact that lunar dust is a real insurmountable barrier to the study of our satellite became clear as part of the first test launches of the Saturn-5 class rockets to the satellite.

The main problem, as it turned out, wasthat no one had any idea at that moment what the surface of the moon was. Maybe it was as solid as a solidified lava, or maybe its so-called seas and craters could be filled to the very smallest particles of dust, once in which the spacecraft would simply sink like a cargo thrown into the sea. But the answer to this question, discovered by the Apollo astronauts, was unexpected and equally alarming. Instead of the supposed seas of liquid solid particles, it was found that over billions of years of micrometeorite falls, the lunar surface was covered with a thin layer of silicate dust, which has a number of unpleasant qualities.

Apollo 17 crew commander Eugene Cernan after a walk on the lunar surface

Firstly, this dust was so dryas much as possible. The constant bombardment of solar and cosmic radiation endowed its particles with a static charge. In the end, this led to the fact that the dust began to stick to the spacesuits of the astronauts. And it was almost impossible to get rid of her. As a result, both the inner part of the lunar lander and the orbital command module were polluted by it.

Worst of all, dryness and radiation made thischemically active dust. Abrasive particles settled on spacesuits, containers for soil samples, electronics and other equipment. As for the astronauts themselves, all 12 people who were on the moon eventually picked up the so-called "moon cold". After flying, everyone had symptoms such as a runny nose and nasal congestion. And these symptoms were observed a few days after returning to Earth.

Particle of moon dust under a microscope

An international group of more than a dozen scientistsgoing to consider the likely long-term effects of moon dust on the human body. Researchers already have suspicions that dust can lead to a serious illness like cancer, but the more accurate effects of moon dust exposure remain largely unknown.

Silicate dust is very dangerous andon the ground. It causes silicosis. This is a professional disease of miners. It also occurs in people who live in areas with frequent dust storms, as well as in areas with volcanic activity. However, lunar dust is different from terrestrial. An active terrestrial environment constantly wears out silicate particles, grinding them and making them more round. Particles of moon dust, in turn, has sharp, jagged edges that make it so sticky that it even settles on special protective boots worn by astronauts of subsequent Apollo missions. What will happen to the lungs in this case is even scary to imagine.

NASA Astronaut Harrison Schmitt Collects Lunar Soil Samples

Another problem is that sinceSince the gravity on the Moon is 6 times lower than the Earth’s, any nanoparticles that fall aboard the spacecraft or inside the lunar station can go unnoticed in the air for many months, continuing to poison the lungs of people.

According to ESA, one of the main problems in studyingmoon dust lies in the fact that we have no real samples of it. It has to be studied using simulation models created on the basis of materials from volcanic regions. Finding the right material that is similar to moon dust is not so difficult. It is difficult to find material that has the same abrasive and other features.