Subject Matter Expert:
A fine dust called regolith covers
the moon. The bombardment of micrometeoroids broke the moon’s
rocks into very tiny pieces, creating regolith.
have been able to analyze and study the moon’s regolith here
on Earth. Between 1969 and 1972, six crewed Apollo missions
brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar soil and
By studying these samples, scientists found that lunar regolith
is about one fifth metals and one fifth silicon. The rest
is mostly oxygen. Metals in the moon could be mined and used
on future space missions for space construction on the moon.
Silicon found in the regolith could be used to make solar
powered cells. NASA is looking for ways to pull oxygen from
the moon’s surface. Oxygen as a gas could one day support
a human base on the moon and fuel vehicles designed to land
on and launch from the moon.
The moon’s regolith has some interesting characteristics
when compared to Earth’s soil. The particles in moon soil
are very small (usually less than 0.1 millimeters across).
These tiny particles become electrostatically
that they can “stick” to objects like space suits and equipment.
Lunar dust is almost like tiny fragments of glass or coral
-- odd shapes that are very sharp and lock together. The
dust can easily become airborne inside a spacecraft, irritating
the space explorers’ lungs and eyes. The darker dust particles
can even absorb sunlight and heat up whatever they coat.
Scientists worry about astronauts breathing in this fine
dust inside the spacecraft. In some ways, lunar dust resembles
the silica dust on Earth that causes silicosis, a serious
disease. It won't necessarily happen to astronauts, but it's
a problem to consider when we go back to the moon.
Lunar dust has some interesting qualities, but it’s clearly
not play material for children or adults. Building a sandcastle
on the moon would be dangerous and impossible. No liquid
water puts a stop to sandcastle creations. On Earth, water
sticks to the sand, and causes sand particles to stick to
each other. On the moon, because there is no water, lunar
dust cannot stick to itself. You could never build a sandcastle
on the moon.