While we have plenty to be getting on with down here on Earth, with new graphics card and CPU releases, one of humanities next great steps into the universe is to put a pair of booted feet on Mars. However, one of the biggest issues with doing so, looks to be dealing with the planet’s dusty surface. This is according to a large body of people at the Human 2 Mars Summit that have been discussing it over the past few days.
Dust might not seem like a big problem in theory, especially when here we can just brush it off and whip out the vacuum, but on Mars you can’t so easily do that. On top of that, the dust there is quite different.
The first hazard, is that it’s likely to be toxic to humans. It’s made up of what we suspect to be bassanite or gypsum, which isn’t going to kill you in one breath, but is likely to build up in a condition similar to the black lung problems faced by coal miners. It’s also thought there could be perchlorates in it, which can interfere with iodine uptake in the thyroid gland and could mess with hormone balances of which ever brave souls end up on the surface of the red planet.
Of course when out and about, astronauts would have helmets and breathing apparatus, the problem however, comes when they return indoors and need to remove their cosmos explorer gear. Dust there could be very like the dust on the moon, which sticks to everything due to static charges. On top of that it’s probably sharp, meaning it’ll slice through many materials, making it hard to remove all of it. It can’t be washed off either, as that just makes it stickier.
If this all seems trivial, think of the lengths organisations like NASA go to developing foodstuffs that are space worthy, space pens and other materials. Keeping things clean and particle free in space is hugely important, something that’s very difficult to do if every ten minutes, Dave, the other astronaut and your sometimes buddy, keeps walking in covered in Mars dust.
As Wired points out, perhaps the solution is some sort of astro-Dyson Airblade?
KitGuru Says: Since the dust is statically charged, perhaps magnets could be used to pull the dust away from the space suits? What do you guys think?