The Moon is full of dust that, NASA learned during its Apollo missions, is a bigger issue than the dust you may encounter on Earth. Whereas Earth dust is generally eroded into dull, rounded shapes, the tiny dust particles on the lunar surface are sharp and glass-like, making them as damaging to equipment as they are to human lungs. Soon, though, NASA will start testing a solution to the problem.
NASA is planning a big return to the Moon in coming years under its Artemis program, which will include both manned and unmanned expeditions on the lunar surface. The space agency explains that it learned some hard lessons about lunar dust during the Apollo era; it was responsible for clogged equipment, it damaged spacesuits, caused radiators to overheat, and even interfered with the functions of various instruments.
Technologies are needed to reduce this problem if space agencies hope to conduct long-term missions on the Moon, NASA explains, which is where its Lunar Surface Innovation Initiative (LSII) comes in. This cross-agency effort is behind the development of technologies designed for lunar exploration, including new tech that will help deal with the Moon’s abrasive dust particles.
NASA says that its LSII teams are evaluating both passive and active technologies that will help protect various types of equipment and systems from dust. These include technologies for things like spacesuits, rovers, and other hardware that’ll be exposed to regolith.
The space agency isn’t looking to work alone, it notes, instead stating that it wants partners across industries to help develop mitigation technology. Some of this tech is already under development and NASA plans to start testing it on the Moon in 2023. The finalized tech systems may one day also be used for Mars missions.