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Houston, we have a problem with moon dust!

Houston, we have a problem with moon dust!

The dust It’s a problem on Earth, Mars, and apparently even the Moon! We know that it is incompatible with electronic devices and not even with the lungs, but if a little cleaning and extensive use of the vacuum cleaner in our homes allow us to manage it without too many problems, then the question of space becomes more complicated.

Mars has Caused the end of the opportunity rover And recently he has The battery recharging system of the Insight lander was also in crisis, prompting NASA to test a very special solution to resurrect solar panels.

Now that we’re almost ready to go back to the moon? Dust is a problem again there NASA He knows very well, but it is on our natural satellite An even more treacherous enemy must be defeated Somehow.

Moon dust is very different from Earth dust and Mars dust, because it is a much more subtle enemy. Reason? On Earth, sand and dust are softened by erosion by water and wind, which slowly but surely form surfaces, even if they are microscopic, making them rounder and less problematic.

In spite of lunar regulars It looks like fine sand, in fact The result of the crushing process And not erosion, because this last dynamic on the Moon does not exist. As a first result, it became particularly clear abrasive and sharp. If we are to find a comparison, it is very similar to many small, sharp-edged pieces of glass whose grains are smaller than 20 microns.

But it doesn’t stop there, because the other big difference with earth dust is that qThe moon is not compressed the same way. Low gravity is complicit in this, and as a side effect, any light activity or movement on the Moon’s surface can raise large amounts of dust.

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And as if this were not enough, we must also take into account that the side of the moon exposed to the sun receives so much solar radiation that it positively charges the particles, which as a result stick to surfaces more easily (did you know static electricity on Earth?).

NASA is looking for solutions to moon dust

Given that the goal is to achieve a sustainable human presence on the Moon, a new approach is needed to lighten the dust. NASA really started thinking about it in 2019, when it created a file Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII) To coordinate interagency teams and catalyze the creation of new technologies needed to explore the lunar surface.

Dust is one of the main focus points of the LSII, which is currently being investigated Different solutions, whether effective or passive, to avoid harming technologies for future use. The goal is to protect spacesuits and rovers as well as power systems and any surface devices exposed to dust.

Like other initiatives, NASA has no intention of moving independently and is seeking the help of private companies, academics and other entities that can contribute to creating solutions. Exact details have not been provided, but dust mitigation technologies currently under development will be tested on the lunar surface from 2023. At this point, the most interesting solutions will be evaluated, which will be applied in Artemis missions From 2024 onwards.