Returning to the moon: The problem of dust


[JOEL S. LEVINE] In July 19, 2019, we
celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first human landing on the surface
of the moon, and one of the very significant things
that we discovered on that lunar landing, the first lunar landing, and verified on
all the subsequent Apollo landings, is that the surface of the moon is covered
with very fine dust, like talcom powder. And, what we discovered is that this fine
talcom-powdered dust that covers the whole surface of the moon,
maybe down to one or two inches, is mostly glasslike, glass shards, and it
created a lot of problems for the
astronauts, because it permeated their spacesuits, it
permeated the habitat, and it turned out
to be a very, very serious problem. We also didn’t think we were going to
send astronauts back to the moon. We thought the next aspect of human
exploration would be the red planet, Mars, and it was decided at high levels that we
will go back to the moon, and that’s why we’re getting together at
the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, in February to learn
more about the dust, its characteristics
and its properties, and then see what techniques or
technologies could be applied to either mitigate or significantly reduce
the dust problem during the next round
of human exploration of the moon. One of our undergraduates at the College
of William & Mary, Max Weinhold, has been working on a project to assess
the impact of human activities on the future density and and pressure
of the moon’s atmosphere. So, what we’re looking at in that study is
how the atmosphere of the moon may respond
to human presence and human activity, and then how that will impact the dust
problem because the thicker the atmosphere, the
more atmosphere there is, the longer the
lifetime of the dust. So, now we really have to consider this
problem of lunar dust, and I am happy to say that some students
at the College of William & Mary will have a unique opportunity to help
NASA, to help the country in trying to solve this important issue
that will affect future exploration
of the moon.

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