The first moon landing by a commercial party should unravel the mystery of ‘sticky moon dust’

Illustration of the 10-kilogram lunar rover aboard the Hakuto-R spacecraft.ESA’s photo

The company’s Hakuto-R space probe iSpace It’s still traveling within 100 kilometers of the lunar surface, but the descent should begin on Tuesday at 6:40 pm Dutch time. If all goes according to plan, the probe will push its foot into the so-called Atlas crater in the northeast of the moon in an hour. Hakuto It means “white rabbit” in Japanese, referring to an old rabbit Japanese legend That the white rabbit lives on the moon.

Although the first successful moon landings date back to the 1960s, they are still technically challenging. In 2019, a lunar lander fails to decelerate enough and crashes onto the surface. India’s attempt also failed. So far, only Russia, the United States and China have managed to make a soft landing. iSpace could also become the first commercial party to land on the moon.

On board is a 10-kilogram lunar rover, small enough to fit in a shopping cart. Technicians from the United Arab Emirates equipped the lunar module with cameras and other equipment. the wheels themselves It is also a type of measuring device, with an outer rim of various materials that piques scientists’ curiosity about how it interacts with lunar dust. This knowledge could help design future lunar suits and other materials that can withstand the harsh conditions on the Moon.

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Rough and irregular

The viscosity of lunar dust was discovered by the Apollo astronauts in the 1960s. I stuck to shoes, suits, and tools. The risks are small for a short stay on the moon, but for long-term missions, electrostatically charged dust can cause machinery and equipment to malfunction due to radiation from the sun. Scientists also worry about the health effects if future astronauts siphon dust into their pressurized chambers after walking on the surface of the Moon and breathe it in there.

Unlike grains of sand on Earth, the dust on the Moon has not been smoothed by wind and friction. It is rough and erratic, and can lodge in the lung, fright NASA scientists. The Apollo astronauts who had inhaled small amounts before found that it smelled like gunpowder and had a mild odor Allergic reactions.

Hakuto-R fits the trend of renewed interest in the moon. different companies You want to land there in the years to come, with measuring instruments ranging from a swarm of small rovers that fit in the palm of your hand to a drill for looking underground. NASA also wants to return astronauts to the moon again in 2026, as a stepping stone to the next moon giant leap A person on Mars.

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