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“The Peril of Moon Dust: Why NASA is Worried”

“The Challenges of Dealing with Regolith Plumes on the Moon”

By MD Mohaiminul IslamPublished about a year ago 3 min read
“The Peril of Moon Dust: Why NASA is Worried”
Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

Have you ever wondered how scientists and engineers prepare for space missions to the moon? One of the challenges they face is the unpredictability of lunar soil, which can be dangerous to spacecraft and astronauts alike. That's where lunar regolith simulant comes in - a substance made by labs on Earth that mimics the properties of real moon soil. This small but growing cottage industry is helping to avoid potentially catastrophic collisions with the real thing as more missions aim for the moon and beyond. With the help of simulant, space exploration can proceed safely and with greater precision.

These samples of simulated lunar regolith are more than just a little bit fly. Experts call it lunar soil, dirt, or dust, and it's helping scientists avoid potential disasters as more missions aim for the moon. But why is this fake moon soil so readily available? The story is fascinating and it all starts with the Apollo program. During the program, the first samples taken of the moon confirmed that lunar regolith is strange and nasty stuff. There's no real atmosphere on the moon, so meteorites have pounded its bedrock into a mix of sharp, jagged particles and lots of dust. The lack of wind and rain means the surface stays jagged and dusty forever. Meteorites also melt the soil on impact, creating little shards of glassy material called Agglutinate. This utterly alien material messed with instrument readings, tore up spacesuits, clogged equipment, and irritated astronauts' eyes and lungs. So, scientists turned to simulant to help them study and prepare for future lunar missions.

NASA and private businesses have been working on creating fake lunar soil, or simulant, to better prepare hardware for missions to the moon. With the increase in lunar exploration, the demand for simulants has grown significantly. Exolith Lab is one of NASA's primary suppliers of lunar simulants and sources its raw materials from mines and other suppliers. The team crushes and sieves the materials to achieve the desired shape and jaggedness. They can also mix in simulated aggultinate for bespoke orders. The simulants are being used for various experiments, such as figuring out how to navigate rovers, grow plants, and extract oxygen from the lunar soil. While no single simulant is a perfect stand-in for all experiments, different simulants can come close on individual features, allowing researchers to order the right simulant for the right test.

One major challenge for long-term plans on the Moon is the effect of rocket exhaust on the lunar surface. When a rocket engine is pointed towards the surface, the exhaust hits the dusty regolith at high speeds, creating a plume of soil that can travel long distances due to the low gravity and lack of atmosphere. Even at significant distances from the landing site, particles can still reach and damage equipment, making it difficult to protect anything left on the Moon. This was demonstrated during the Apollo 12 mission, where Surveyor 3, an uncrewed NASA craft that landed on the Moon a few years earlier, was completely sandblasted and eroded by the rocket exhaust, despite being 160 meters away from the landing site. To address this problem, researchers are using lunar simulants to study the effects of rocket exhaust and develop better protection for equipment on the Moon.

As we continue to explore and settle on the Moon and beyond, the issue of regolith plumes and their potential damage will likely become more pressing. But with continued research and development, there are promising solutions on the horizon, from standardizing landing zones to building launch pads out of regolith. And with the increasing availability of regolith simulant, there's potential for even more innovation and discovery. As we strive to push the boundaries of space exploration, the challenges we face will continue to spur us on, and the rewards will be vast. Who knows what we'll discover on the Moon, on Mars, and beyond, as we delve deeper into the mysteries of our universe.


About the Creator

MD Mohaiminul Islam

Currently trying to write books on scientific documentaries and human life in my free time.

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Comments (2)

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  • hayaadnanabout a year ago read mine too if you like :)

  • hayaadnanabout a year ago

    very nicely written.💖

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