2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:50 PM


NOBLE, Sarah K., NASA Johnson Space Center, Mail Code KR, 2101 NASA Parkway, Houston, TX 77058 and LINDSAY, John F., Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, TX 77058, sarah.k.noble@nasa.gov

Is exposure to lunar dust harmful to humans? We really do not know, but with NASA gearing up to return to the Moon by the year 2020, that has suddenly become a very important question. Because of the unique environment at the lunar surface, lunar dust has properties unlike any terrestrial rock or soil. Lunar soil contains an extremely fine component and in the lunar environment grains have highly reactive surfaces with surface coatings generated by vapor phases formed by hypervelocity impact of micrometeorites. The Apollo astronauts were briefly exposed to the dust, and it burned their eyes and irritated their noses and throats, but apparently did no lasting damage during these short-term missions. This time around though, astronauts may stay on the surface for weeks or even months at a time. It is thus crucial that we understand the health consequences of exposure and determine the acceptable limits so that engineers can appropriately and efficiently design suits, habitats, equipment seals and other vital components to meet those needs.

To that end, NASA has established LADTAG, the Lunar Airborne Dust Toxicity Advisory Group. This group brings together expertise from two vastly different worlds, toxicology and lunar geology. These two groups each hold a part of the puzzle and it is imperative that they work together to solve it. However, as is often the case when two disciplines collide, communicating has proven to be difficult. We have found though, that the cultural and language barriers between us are not insurmountable. Strategies such as providing short easy-to-read summaries of the most relevant literature and glossaries and lists of common acronyms, as well as padding meeting schedules with plenty of question time can help bridge the gap and make for more fruitful discussions. These efforts are paying off as joint research programs are gradually being developed.