A Dusty Road for Astronauts
The lunar dust problem was first formulated in 1969 with NASA’s first successful mission to land a human being on the surface of the Moon. Subsequent Apollo missions failed to keep the dust at bay, so exposure to the dust was unavoidable. In 1972, Harrison Schmitt suffered a brief sneezing attack, red eyes, an itchy throat, and congested sinuses in response to lunar dust. Some additional Apollo astronauts also reported allergy-like symptoms after tracking dust into the lunar module. Immediately following the Apollo missions, research into the toxic effects of lunar dust on the respiratory system gained a lot of interest. Moreover, researchers believed other organ systems might be at risk, including the skin and cornea. Secondary effects could translocate to the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and the brain. With current intentions to return humans to the moon and establish a semi-permanent presence on or near the moon’s surface, integrated, end-to-end dust mitigation strategies are needed to enable sustainable lunar presence and architecture. The characteristics and formation of Martian dust are different from lunar dust, but advances in the research of lunar dust toxicity, mitigation, and protection strategies can prove strategic for future operations on Mars.