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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Investigate the effects of static charges on dust particles using a static electricity device (Van de Graff generator).
Compare the accumulation of lunar dust on astronaut space suits to the dust that accumulates on the screens of tube type monitors.
Have student teams come up with proposals for a dust mitigation system on the Moon that will permit astronauts to go outside their base on Moonwalks but not track the dust back inside the base.
Have students investigate the effects of other kinds of dust on human respiratory health. Examples include household dust, coal dust and asbestos.
Astronaut health on moon may depend on good dusting
News release from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute on Kim Prisk's research on lunar dust inhalation.
Website focused on air pollution and children's health maintained by the Environmental Protection Agency and other US government agencies.
Lunar Dust Buster
Article by Science@NASA on the lunar dust problem and the possible use of electromagnetic levitation to remove dust from flat surfaces, such as solar panels, while on the Moon and Mars.
A science fiction story, written in 1956, which suggested that lunar dust might levitate off the lunar surface due to electrostatic charges. Lunar scientists believe that the story could be credible and that electromagnetic charges could explain why orbiting Apollo 17 astronauts saw "twilight rays" just before and after sunrise and sunset.
The Effects of Lunar Dust on EVA Systems During the Apollo Missions
This technical memorandum from the NASA Scientific and Technical Information Office provides detailed information about problems with Apollo extravehicular activity systems caused by dust on the Moon's surface.
Stronger Than Dirt
In September 2006, Air and Space Magazine published this story by Trudy Bell, describing the nature of lunar and Martian dust, and the problems combating it.
National Science Standards
Physical Science – Properties of Objects and Materials
Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives – Changes in Environments
Environments are the space, conditions, and factors that affect an individual's and a population's ability to survive and their quality of life.
Life science – Organisms and Their Environments
Humans depend on their natural and constructed environments.
Life Science – Structure and Function in Living Systems
The human has a system for respiration.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives – Personal Health
Safe living involves the development and use of safety precautions and the recognition of risk in personal decisions.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives – Risks and Benefits
Risk analyses are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.
Physical Science – Motions and Forces
The electric force is a universal force that exists between any two charged objects.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives – Personal and Community Health
Humans have a variety of mechanisms that can reduce the potential for accidents.
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives – Natural and Human-Induced Hazards
Natural and human-induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential danger and risk.