A colony on the closest object to the planet Earth has been a fascination since space travel has begun. This idea may soon prove to be fatal. Researchers have shown that moon dust could be harmful to the astronauts who would take residence on the moon.
Human health is negatively impacted by the surface of the moon.
Simulated Lunar Dust
In a new study published in the journal GeoHealth, researchers from the Stony Brook University School of Medicine were able to measure the effect of moon dust on the human body. Scientists used human lung cells and mouse brains cells, which were then exposed to simulated versions of lunar soil. Real lunar dust isn't used for study, as it is too valuable. Instead, scientists used soil from Earth that simulates soil found in the Moon's highlands and volcanic plains.
The cells were exposed to the moon dust under controlled conditions. Researchers found that grounded-up moon dust that is fine enough to be inhaled killed up to 90 percent of both human lung cells and mouse brain cells.
After each time, the team would count how many cells were left and measured how the lunar soil affected the cell's DNA. Researchers found that the moon dust killed the cells or caused damage to the cells' DNA.
Scientists were not able to measure the DNA damage in human lungs cells because the simulated lunar soil killed all the cells. In the mouse brain cells, the lunar soil caused DNA damage to the neurons.
Why Is Moon Dust Dangerous?
During the Apollo 17 moon mission, astronauts found that when they inhaled the lunar dust dragged in by their gear, they would experience lunar hay fever. The astronauts would be sneezing and have watery eyes, and sore throats as a result of inhaling moon dust. It took a couple of hours for the sensation to go away.
Astronaut Gene Cernan described the moon dust, saying it is soft like snow but abrasive and that it smelled like gunpowder.
One of the reasons that moon dust may be so harmful is because the moon has no atmosphere. The soil on the moon would not be protected and would be pounded by charged particles from the Sun. This causes the moon dust to become charged, causing it stick to surfaces.
Previous studies have found that freshly ground dust particles can become attached to the alveolar sacs and ducts in the lungs. In the alveolar sacs, carbon dioxide is exchanged for oxygen.