Sunday, December 30, 2018

Lunar Dust May Be Dangerous to Humans

During an Apollo 17 EVA, lunar dusts is obviously seen to cling to astronaut Harrison Schmitt while he uses an adjustable sampling scoop to retrieve lunar samples. Efforts to understand the properties of lunar dust and to prevent its introduction into vehicles and habitats will minimize the risk of inhalation, dermal, and ocular injuries on future lunar missions. Credit: NASA/Eugene A. Cernan

There needs to be more research on lunar dust, as it poses a threat when it gets into human lungs, Vladimir Sychev, deputy director of science at the Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBMP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said.

"In actuality, they have delivered very little lunar soil to Earth. What raises questions is not the soil, but lunar dust. It has a 'hedgehog' structure and does not leave lungs once it gets there. It's very dangerous. Lunar dust needs to be studied from the point of view of safety," Sychev said.

Russian scientists are more interested getting lunar dust samples than soil samples, he said.

"When we have the Luna-Grunt apparatus, we stated in our request that it needs to deliver dust, not just soil, so we can study its structure, its chemical composition, and generally understand how dangerous it can be," Sychev said.

As for the prospects of using lunar soil to grow plants during future exploration of the moon, he said this depends on the inertia of lunar dust, as lunar soil is rocky.

"We now use clay as soil in space. And we use extended-release tablets as fertilizer. The same technology can be used in lunar conditions," the scientist said.

Oleg Kotov, cosmonaut and deputy director of the IBMP, said it is too early to talk about using lunar soil to grow plants.

"Because short stays are enough at the first stages of the exploration of the moon, issues related to the creation of bio-regenerative systems using local soil are not on the agenda. We need to learn to live there first," Kotov said.


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