Show Details

Lunar Dust

June 17, 2008

Moon dust not only gets into space suits, it could jeopardize the health of future astronauts.


Could moon dust threaten astronauts? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Some workplaces, like coal mines and oil refineries, pose a danger to workers’ lungs. Now, scientists are trying to find out if the moon should be added to that list. Pulmonary physiologist Kim Prisk, of the University of California at San Diego, says lunar dust sticks to a spacesuit like sand on a bathing suit.

KIM PRISK (University of California, San Diego):
And there were many comments, in fact, during the Apollo missions, from the crews, about how pervasive this dust is and how much of it got into the crew module.

Those trips were short, but future moon missions may go on for months. What’s more, Prisk says that lunar dust particles have worrying similarities to known lung toxins, and that low gravity may help them penetrate the lungs more deeply. He and his colleagues will try to determine what the risk to astronauts may be, and how to minimize it. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.