Wednesday, 28 Jan, 2009 Science
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Lunar Dust Buster to Clean Moon Base From Dust

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Recently US researchers came up with the idea of creating a "lunar dust buster". Their latest invention could help astronauts clean up dirty moonwalks and get rid of dirt that can penetrate the moon base.

Because of the particles' structure, the moon dust represents a real threat to astronauts. The particles of the moon dust are covered in small spikes that can stick to different surfaces. In fact, the moon dust can attach so tightly that it is not possible to shift it with a simple process of brushing.

"We are talking about abrasive Velcro," says Pamela Clark of the Catholic University of America, Washington DC. She currently works as NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, based in Greenbelt, Maryland. Clark stated that the dust is abrasive enough to damage machinery. Besides it could be really harmful if inhibited.

In order to solve the issue, the group of researchers led by Pamela Clark started developing the SPARKLE, which is a lunar dust buster that can be used in the airlock that leads to a moon base. Scientists say that the invention features a positively charged metallic nozzle mounted on an electron gun which, from a hot filament, emits a focused ray of electrons.

After the moonwalk, the astronauts would use the device to scan the surface of their equipment by showering it with positively charged electrons and clean from moon dust until all the particles as well as the surface are negatively charged and begin deflecting one another. In such a way the grip of the moon dust particles would loosen and they would fly to the nozzle where these particles are captured. During the trials, the latest invention in space industry was able to pick a 2mm-high mass of crushed volcanic rock which resembles lunar dust, informs New Scientist.

The final results of the lunar dust buster will be presented at the SPESIF conference, which will take place in Huntsville, Alabama, in February. According to Lawrence Taylor, who studies lunar dust at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, magnetic attraction can prove to be more effective at clearing bigger particles of moon dust. Thus he proposes to combine the two techniques.

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