space-oddities-2

[Split yesterday's comic up as it was causing some confusion. I'll keep playing with the format though.]

Ah, my favorite target of ire. My dear friend. My favorite pal, the moonThe moonThe moonThe moonThe Moon. Yesterday Pop-Sci had an article about simulations showing that moon dust is toxic. It’s not what you think, though. You won’t die from drinking a moonshake, but inhalation is another matter. This isn’t really a new discovery. We have been studying moon rocks for decades, and it is nasty. Since the initial moon landings, astronauts have reported on the strange qualities of lunar regolith. Due to its electrostatic charge, regolith has a propensity to stick to everything. Not only that, the dust actually floats just above the surface of the moon. This static clinginess caused the Apollo astronauts to track the stuff in with them when they came back into the lander. Once inside, they discovered some of its more irritating qualities.

The two astronauts had just returned from a long moonwalk around the Taurus-Littrow valley, near the Sea of Serenity. Dusty footprints marked their entry into the spaceship. That dust became airborne–and smelly. Later, Schmitt felt congested and complained of “lunar dust hay fever.” His symptoms went away the next day; no harm done. He soon returned to Earth and the anecdote faded into history.

Some history: The moon has no atmosphere, so over its lifetime, our companion has been pounded by every little space rock that comes its way, giving it the pock-marked features we know and love. Also subsequently causing it to be covered by a layer of fine, glasslike particles. When I worked in metal sculpture, and to a greater extent, glass coldworking, dust inhalation was always a safety concern due to the sharp, tiny bits getting embedded in the alveoli of the lungs. Future settlements on the Moon, and perhaps even Mars, face this same problem, as moon dust will likely cause similar, silicosis-like symptoms.

The solution, of course, is to build airlocks with proper filters and vacuums to remove all the dust before the astronauts take off their helmets. Or to send robots to that dirty dustball.

All that said, you gamers out there already knew the dangers of moon dust.