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Paul Conneally

Tim I would like to warn again against snorting any moondust - some of it if left around on glass tables etc might look like other kinds of powders - i know that you will be careful but please keep an eye on Mr. Bowie - a reformed character from his thin white duke days i'm told but hey space can do strange things to a man.

I've discovered this artcle on the dangers of inhaling moon dust - real dangers - so take care.


Moon Dust Madness! - 6 Jan 2001

By Trudy E Bell and Dr Tony Phillips
When humans return to the Moon and travel to Mars, they'll have to be careful of what they inhale.

This is a true moon story.

In 1972, Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt sniffed the air in his Lunar Module, the Challenger. " It smells like gunpowder in here," he said. His commander Gene Cernan agreed. "Oh, it does, doesn't it?"

The two astronauts had just returned from a long moon walk around the Taurus-Littrow valley, near the Sea of Serenity. Dusty footprints marked their entry into the spaceship. That dust became airborne - and smelly.

Later, Schmitt felt congested and complained of "lunar dust hay fever." His symptoms went away the next day; no harm done. He soon returned to Earth from the moon, looking at the phases of the moon from afar, and the anecdote faded into history.

But Russell Kerschmann never forgot that day or time. He's a pathologist at the NASA Ames Research Center studying the effects of mineral dust on human health. NASA is now planning to send people back to the Moon and on to Mars. Both are dusty worlds, extremely dusty. Inhaling that dust, says Kerschmann, could be bad for astronauts

"The real problem is the lungs," he explains. "In some ways, lunar dust resembles the silica dust on Earth that causes silicosis, a serious disease." Silicosis, which used to be called "stone-grinder's disease," first came to widespread public attention during the Great Depression when hundreds of miners drilling the Hawk's Nest Tunnel through Gauley Mountain in West Virginia died within half a decade of breathing fine quartz dust kicked into the air by dry drilling - even though they had been exposed for only a few months. "It was one of the biggest occupational-health disasters in U.S. history," Kerschmann says.

Moondust is extremely fine and abrasive, almost like powdered glass. Astronauts on several Apollo moon missions found that it clung to everything and was almost impossible to remove; once tracked inside the Lunar Moon Module, some of it easily became airborne, irritating lungs and eyes

To find ways of mitigating these hazards, NASA is soon to begin funding Project Dust, a four-year study headed by Masami Nakagawa, associate professor in the mining engineering department of the Colorado School of Mines. Project Dust will study such technologies as thin-film coatings that repel dust from tools and other surfaces, and electrostatic techniques for shaking or otherwise removing dust from spacesuits.

These technologies, so crucial on the Moon and Mars, might help on Earth, too, by protecting people from sharp-edged or toxic dust on our own planet. Examples include alkaline dust blown from dry lakes in North American deserts, wood dust from sawmills and logging operations, and, of course, abrasive quartz dust in mines.


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