As NASA plans to head for the Moon again, they are gathering scientists and engineers together in order to find solutions to dealing with the hazard of lunar dust.
(NPR.org) Larry Taylor has a lab devoted to moon dust at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He’s discovered that it has some unusual properties. “For example, most of the lunar dust can be picked up with an ordinary magnet.”
The fine grains contain tiny amounts of iron, so magnetic filters might be used to pull the dust out of the air.
That iron makes the dust behave in another strange way.
“If you put this lunar soil into a microwave oven, it will melt before your tea water boils,” Taylor says.
The melted dust hardens into a glassy blob. Taylor says that future astronauts could use microwaves to pave the lunar soil or make bricks for building.
The dust can be unhealthy as well as irritating as one astronaut, Harrison Schmitt (of Apollo 17) developed what he called “lunar-dust hay fever” after the nasty particles got inside their lunar module via tools and suits. The particles are so fine that breathing it in can be hazardous towards ones lungs.
By melting lunar dust down, NASA could be saving future colonists and space tourists serious health problems down the road, not to mention the annoyance of solar dust bunnies dancing everywhere.