Dust hazard for Moon missions

2013-07-08 08:02
Moon. (AP)

Moon. (AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A return to the Moon could be hampered by dust, a poorly-understood threat to machines and people alike, according to a presentation at a space conference that ended on Friday.

Simulations by scientists in Britain and France show that in key zones of Earth's satellite, dust kicked up by a landing or exploration gains an electrostatic force that briefly overcomes lunar gravity, it heard.

As a result, the dust lingers high above the surface, presenting a thin grey cloud of fine, sticky, abrasive particles that hamper visibility, coat solar panels and threaten moving parts, they said.

Some kinds of lunar dust are laden with iron, presenting a toxicity risk for humans if breathed in, they said.

Farideh Honary, a professor at the University of Lancaster, north-western England, said lunar dust was already identified as a potential hazard by returning Apollo astronauts.

Computer simulation

But only now, with mounting interest in a return to the Moon, were scientists taking a closer look, she said.

"We need to study the dust in much more detail and to do more measurements before [sending] manned missions," she said by phone.

In a computer simulation presented at the annual conference in Edinburgh of Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), Honary said dust did not behave uniformly around the Moon.

What makes the dust levitate and cling is a force caused by electrostatic charge.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight drives out electrons and gives the dust a positive charge. But at night-time or in shadow, the torrent of particles spewed out from the Sun charges the dust with electrons, giving it a negative charge.

The dust movement occurs most in areas where the Sun is either rising or setting, and dust particles of opposite charges that are disturbed get pulled towards each other, floating in a haze.

"On most of the lunar surface, a rover would experience roughly 14 days of sunlight followed by 14 days of darkness, so the transition between the two would last a long time by terrestrial standards," said Honary.

"Engineers really do need to think about this," she said.

Building a "dome-shaped" rover from which the dust slides, as opposed to a rover that is box-shaped or has lots of crevices or surfaces on which the dust could fall, would be a good option, she said.

The last manned mission to the Moon was Apollo 17, in 1972.

China has said it will attempt to land an exploratory craft on the Moon in the second half of 2013 and transmit back a survey of the lunar surface.

According to the specialist website Dragon in Space, Chinese mission controllers are mulling five locations for a site where a six-wheeled rover will be deployed.

Indian space officials have also sketched plans for sending a rover in 2015.

Read more on:    space
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
23 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

The rich will pay - Mpofu

The EFF in Gauteng will focus all its energy on improving the lives of the poor, the party's premier candidate Dali Mpofu says.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Century City - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Ratanga Road Southbound
    ROADWORKS - lane closure between Ocean Spirit Avenue and Century Boulevard (until mid April)
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 05:58 AM
    Road name: Spine Road
    ROAD CLOSED between Weltevreden Drive and Seafarer Drive due to roadworks (until mid April)
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Torch 9810

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 gives you the powerful combination of...

From R2815.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.