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When the Apollo astronauts returned from the Moon, the dust that clung to their spacesuits made their throats sore và their eyes water. Lunar dust is made of sharp, abrasive & nasty particles, but how toxic is it for humans?


The “lunar tuyệt fever”, as NASA astronaut Harrison Schmitt described it during the Apollo 17 mission created symptoms in all 12 people who have stepped on the Moon. From sneezing lớn nasal congestion, in some cases it took days for the reactions khổng lồ fade. Inside the spacecraft, the dust smelt lượt thích burnt gunpowder.

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The Moon missions left an unanswered question of lunar exploration – one that could affect humanity’s next steps in the Solar System: can lunar dust jeopardise human health?


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Moon dust on astronaut after moonwalk

An ambitious emtc2.edu.vn research programme with experts from around the planet is now addressing the issues related to lớn lunar dust.

“We don’t know how bad this dust is. It all comes down lớn an effort to estimate the degree of risk involved,” says Kim Prisk, a pulmonary physiologist from the University of California with over trăng tròn years of experience in human spaceflight – one of the 12 scientists taking part in emtc2.edu.vn’s research.

Nasty dustLunar dust has silicate in it, a material commonly found on planetary bodies with volcanic activity. Miners on Earth suffer from inflamed và scarred lungs from inhaling silicate. On the Moon, the dust is so abrasive that it ate away layers of spacesuit boots và destroyed the vacuum seals of Apollo sample containers.


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Lunar dust particle

Fine lượt thích powder, but sharp lượt thích glass. The low gravity of the Moon, one sixth of what we have on Earth, allows tiny particles to lớn stay suspended for longer and penetrate more deeply into the lung.

“Particles 50 times smaller than a human hair can hang around for months inside your lungs. The longer the particle stays, the greater the chance for toxic effects,” explains Kim.

The potential damage from inhaling this dust is unknown butresearchshows that lunar soil simulants can destroy lung & brain cells after long-term exposure.

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Down to the particle

On Earth, fine particles tend to smoothen over years of erosion by wind & water, lunar dust however, is not round, but sharp & spiky.

In addition the Moon has no atmosphere và is constantly bombarded by radiation from the Sun that causes the soil to become electrostatically charged.


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Collecting lunar samples

This charge can be so strong that the dust levitates above the lunar surface, making it even more likely lớn get inside equipment & people’s lungs.

Dusty workplace

To chạy thử equipment and the behaviour of lunar dust, emtc2.edu.vn will be working with simulated Moon dust mined from a volcanic region in Germany.

Working with the simulant is no easy feat. “The rarity of the lunar glass-like material makes it a special kind of dust. We need khổng lồ grind the source material but that means removing the sharp edges,” says Erin Tranfield, biologist và expert in dust toxicity.

The lunar soil does have a bright side. “You can heat it lớn produce bricks that can offer shelter for astronauts. Oxygen can be extracted from the soil to lớn sustain human missions on the Moon,” explains science advisor Aidan Cowley.

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Deep breath

This week emtc2.edu.vn is hosting a workshopon lunar resources at theEuropean Space Research giải pháp công nghệ Centre in the Netherlands, meanwhile in space emtc2.edu.vn astronaut Alexander Gerst is running a session of the Airway Monitoringexperiment to monitor lung health in reduced gravity – preparing for a sustainable return lớn our nearest neighbour in the Solar System.


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