Thursday, January 8, 2009

Moon Dust Recipe

And no, it isn’t a clever new way to fix grits, it’s another simulation in our efforts to master survival on the moon. Here’s another classic "Unsung Hero Working in the Name of Science," and I am always fascinated by details of such projects, because they represent all the "less glamorous" issues we nonetheless must confront in the new space race.

Carol McClemore and her team create "simulated lunar regolith” or, fake moon dust. Why? Because studying this material helps researchers determine how to extract valuable elements from authentic moon dust (and we’ve never obtained enough samples to conduct all the potential research.)

NASA Moon Dust StudyMarshall Space Flight Center's Carol McClemore

Back in 1969, Apollo astronauts made a swift discovery: moon dust is a downright botheration. The particles invaded everything, compromising tools, plugging bolt holes, abrading space suits, coating headgear and cameras, etc. Dealing with the dust needs to be a priority with the next generation of NASA explorers, likely with specialized brushes, magnets – or potentially putting the powdery grit to good use by creating building materials or extracting oxygen.

Swinging a sledgehammer must be awesomely good exercise, and I’d love to donate… except that the rocks in Texas wouldn’t make for a realistic lunar substitute. You can’t just have any old rocks, but the Marshall team found some 2.7-billion-year old magma crust near Stillwater Mine in Nye, Montana, which is similar to the geology of the Moon… so off a-pounding they went.

What I love about stories like this is how we as a species even reached the POSSIBILITY of such a project. In order to create fake moon dust, you have to know a fair amount about the real thing. In order to find the real thing, well there was that pesky little ordeal about leaving our atmosphere, surviving a hostile environment that doesn’t support life, landing gently on an orbiting satellite, playing a few holes of golf and then getting some rocks back home.

I’m not sure why people act like that is so ho-hum now, but it’s truly one of the most exciting things our species has ever accomplished. Maybe Buzz was right... and when we went too far and fancifully into science fiction, we stopped appreciating the natural realities of space exploration. Anywhoo… full story of bringing boulders down to gravel and then using a specific "recipe" to closely approximate moon dust.


mantic59 said...

"Botheration"?? Heh...

My wife and I visited meteor crater in AZ a few years ago ( and could peer through a telescope into the small area at the bottom where some of the Apollo astronauts trained. Very cool place.

qazser said...

Happy new Year Pillownaut!

I've applied for the BR study, passed the bloodwork testing (studied real hard for it) and got my plane ticket to Houston for a Feb Dr. Visit. Thanks for all your info on the website. They tell me the rooms are semi-private...does that mean your own room under camera surveilance or two people together?

barbie2be said...

see... this proves that the lunar landing was faked! hahahahaha, NOT!

i remember being an 8 year old whose scientific world had just been opened by a tutor that introduced me to isaac asimov. that summer, there we were watching a man take that one giant leap for mankind. how could anyone not be fascinated by the space program?

Orange said...

I like your blog!Thanks for sharing=)
Are you a scientist?

Thursday's Child said...

I'm glad you're still posting about NASA. It's neat to read.

I so wish you'd been able to finish your study. Do you plan to volunteer for another any time soon?

sacasmo said...

hey i thought they illeglized that moon dust back in the 60s... haha

PillowNaut said...

dude, different dust ;) Other stuff answered in depth in next QA! :)

Mrs. L said...

How interesting about the fake moon dust. You do come up with some awesome information!

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Zelong (Brains3) said...

Wondering how this Recipe turned out and which elements were found and used? as there was a find of Armalcolite, Pyroxferroite and Tranquillityite(after the Sea of Tranquility) in Western Australia.

Accepted 30 August 2011 Tranquillityite: The last lunar mineral comes down to Earth ....Terrestrial tranquillityite commonly occurs as clusters of fox-red laths closely associated with baddeleyite and zirconolite in quartz and K-feldspar intergrowths in late-stage interstices between plagioclase and pyroxene. Its composition is relatively uniform, comprising mostly Si, Zr, Ti, and Fe, with minor Al, Mg, Mn, Ca, Nb, Hf, Y, and rare earth elements. Its habit and chemistry are consistent with tranquillityite in lunar basalts, and it has a face-centered-cubic subcell, similar to that of annealed lunar tranquillityite.

January 4, 2012 Rare moon mineral found in Australia

Video/Radio interview; Direct link from Rare moon mineral found in Australia above: Moon rock found in WA- Professor Birger Rasmussen of Curtin University

January-17-2012 Moon mineral found in Western Australia RESEARCHERS COLLECTING ROCK samples in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region have stumbled across a mineral previously believed to exist only on the Moon.