In the coming years, NASA will be sending astronauts to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. This time, and as part of the Artemis Program, NASA also plans to build the necessary infrastructure to establish a sustained human presence on the Moon and eventually missions to Mars – including the Artemis Base Camp and the orbiting Lunar Gateway.
They’ll be getting some new equipment, such as the exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unity (xEMU) spacesuit and a fancy new lunar lander. Of course, as the Artemis astronauts will also have to deal with the same hazards as their predecessors – not the least of which is lunar dust (or regolith). Luckily, NASA is investigating a possible solution in the form of a handheld electron/ultraviolet (UV) device that could mitigate this hazard.
As a wise man once said, “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating – and it gets everywhere”. The same could be said for another material in our solar system – dust.
The kind of dust present on the moon is even more annoying than the grains that bothered Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine. It is constantly bathed in solar radiation, smells like spent gunpowder, and can cause allergic reactions, as it did in some of the Apollo astronauts. It’s also notoriously difficult to clean off of surfaces. Now a team of scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder think they have a solution that would remove lunar dust without harming the material it’s attached to. And they would do this by using a tool that sounds like it’s straight out of Star Wars – an electron beam.