Deadly Moon Dust Is the 'Number One Concern' for Astronauts Returning to Moon

Monday, 17 December 2018 - 12:00PM
Space
Solar System
Moon
Monday, 17 December 2018 - 12:00PM
Deadly Moon Dust Is the 'Number One Concern' for Astronauts Returning to Moon
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NASA
As Cas Anvar of The Expanse said, space is trying to kill you 24 hours a day. Whether it's powerful gravity, deadly radiation, or a lack of oxygen, there's a thousand different ways to die in space. The Moon, however, has always seemed relatively benign—unlike Venus or Mercury, its surface isn't a roiling hellscape that can kill humans in seconds, and it only takes a couple days to get there, making it much, much easier to travel to than Mars. However, it turns out the Moon has its own ways of killing astronauts—the chief being its flour-like dust.

According to Futurism, the Apollo astronauts recognized that moon dust could harm their lungs if inhaled, as well as damage their space suits and cause their vehicles to malfunction. The Apollo astronauts never returned to health with any Moon dust-related illnesses, but researchers didn't understand quite how dire the threat of Moon dust was until recently.

In a series of experiments, scientists exposed human lung cells and mouse brain cells to investigate the effects of exposure. They found that the lunar dust had the potential to damage DNA and spark the growth of cancers, but even more concerning was the fact that 90% of human and mouse cells that interacted with it died. Apparently, lunar dust particles are able to create "hydroxyl radicals" when exposed to human tissue, which provide the impetus for cancer, especially within the lungs. According to Apollo astronaut John Young: "Dust is the number one concern in returning to the Moon."

Players of the 2011 sci-fi puzzle game Portal 2 will find a morbid bit of humor in this news: the CEO of the game's infamous research lab Aperture Science, a boisterous, eccentric man named Cave Johnson, bought huge quantities of moon rocks and ground them up in the hope of creating a scientific breakthrough. One of the final voice lines you hear from the character is : "...guess what? Ground up moon rocks are pure poison. I am deathly ill."

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