Quantities of lunar dust being displaced by Apollo 15’s Falcon’s lunar lander exhaust.
Source: Apollo 15 landing video, converted by Gary Neff

Not only did Apollo landing crews get fogged out by the blown dust making touchdowns troublesome, substantial amounts of rock and debris was sent flying during the rocket-powered landings.

Apollo 14 close call. Landing craft experienced a seven degree tilt.
Credit: NASA

New experiments suggest there’s an issue of coming and going lunar traffic, but what to do about the problem? Scientists are working on the workarounds that appear needed if operating and living on the Moon is to become routine.

Take a read about this issue in my new Space.com story:

How will NASA deal with the moon dust problem for Artemis lunar landings?

The Apollo experience holds many lessons


One Response to “Moon Landings: Dust-up over Dust”

  • Edward L. Patrick says:

    I have been studying this for years and trying to figure out how to quantify it for publication. For me, it all started with the N2 peak appearing in an Apollo 11 10086 sample immediately upon heating above room temperature when the sample was in the lab weeks after returning from the Moon. This was work by Gibson & Johnson. Since the lunar surface sees >100C temperatures at lunar Noon at low latitudes, there is no other explanation for the presence of the inert N2 gas evolving under vacuum than that it was the result of some type of contaminant present just a few meters from the LM’s engine bell. I’m guessing some “salt” of monomethyl hydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide with an active N group. Once heated, the atomic N formed N2 and escaped as a gas.

    There’s no question that Moon work is going to become routine one day. The problem I have is not “planetary protection” (PP), but SCIENCE PROTECTION. I have good reason to believe Arlin Crotts (RIP) about plumes of gas escaping the lunar interior, and Dave McKay (RIP) about the paleocosmic history of the inner solar system lying beneath the lunar surface like pages in an encyclopedia.

    I also know that Al Bean saturated the Cold Cathode Gauge Experiment on Apollo 12 when he turned his back on it from the supersonic molecular beam emanating from the ceramic submlimators in his Personal Life Support Systems (PLSS). What, exactly, is the level of “pristine” for a lunar sample retrieved by an astronaut who is spraying H20 into the lunar exosphere from his backpack? How do we plan to account for this water coma evolving from the new astronaut spacesuits that will keep the future astronauts’ underwear cool in broad lunar daylight?

    I have told people and my colleagues that there were no mistakes during Apollo. We only knew what we knew. However, going back half a century later and doing things the same way? That’s a mistake. That’s an unforced error. We’re not employing 1918 methods on a 2019 coronavirus.

    I want the Copernicus Hilton as much as anyone else, but there are two things we absolutely need to know. We need to know how much spacecraft and equipment and astronauts contaminate the pristine lunar environment, or just quit calling it prisine. Secondly, and more importantly, we need to know what science lies concealed beneath the lunar subsurface and what it could tell us about the history of the solar system. We can’t do that on Earth. Most of that history has been obliterated by tectonics, aeolian forces, and our biome.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

    For more on gas exposure to fines, see “A qualitative study of the retention and release of volatile gases in JSC-1A lunar soil simulant at room temperature under ultrahigh vacuum (UHV) conditions” Icarus 255, 30-43 (2015)

    For the Moon’s surface being more reactive than we currently know and understand,

    Work to simulate these environments…
    Including giant chambers…

    The water from Al Bean’s backpack and implications for lunar contamination…


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