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Kim Prisk: Health Hazards of Lunar Dust

Kim Prisk: Health Hazards of Lunar Dust

Dr. Chantal Darquenne prepares to collect aerosol deposition data from a test subject during simulated lunar gravity aboard NASA's Reduced Gravity aircraft.
Courtesy of Kim Prisk, PhD, DSc.

National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) scientist, G. Kim Prisk, PhD, DSc, explains the health hazards of lunar dust. Apollo astronauts, walking on the Moon's surface, quickly became covered with a fine blackish powder. Like beach sand on Earth, it got into everything.

But what is lunar dust? Why is it a problem for lunar explorers? What are the possible health effects of inhaling lunar dust? How will astronauts, returning to the Moon and later, exploring Mars, solve the dust problem?

Short Version

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Long Version

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Grades 3-5

  • Making Regolith
    In this classroom activity developed for NASA's KSNNTM 21st Century Explorer Newsbreak ("What should you find on the moon's surface?"), students make simulated regolith (lunar dust) and observe its properties.

  • Breathing Machine
    Student teams construct human lung models from small clear plastic beverage bottles and balloons to investigate how movements of the diaphragm cause lungs to inflate.

  • Dust Catchers
    Students build take-home dust catchers with wax paper and petroleum jelly. After a set monitoring period, the dust catchers are brought back to school and representative particle counts are made using a comparison grid.

Grades 5-8

  • Exploring the Moon
    Students compare the process of regolith formation on Earth and the Moon in this activity, excerpted from NASA's Exploring the Moon, a Teacher's Guide (EG-1997-10-116-HQ), with emphasis on Earth and space sciences.