A NASA experiment sheds light on the moon's highly charged dust.

The New Shepard crew capsule descends under parachute during launch on Tuesday, December 19, 2023. Credit: Blue Origin

Researchers are studying data from recent subflight tests to better understand lunar regolith, or moon dust, and its potential harmful effects as NASA’s Artemis mission returns astronauts to the lunar surface. Preparing. The experiment, developed jointly by NASA and the University of Central Florida, sheds light on how this abrasive dust interacts with astronauts, their spacesuits and other equipment on the moon.

The Electrostatic Regolith Interaction Experiment (ERIE) was one of 14 NASA-sponsored payloads launched on December 19 aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard uncrewed rocket from Launch Site One in West Texas. During ERIE collected data to help researchers at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida study tribocharging, or friction-generated charges, in microgravity.

The Moon is highly charged by phenomena such as the solar wind and ultraviolet light from the Sun. Under these conditions, regolith grains are attracted to lunar explorers and their equipment—think of it as the static produced by rubbing a balloon against a person’s head. Enough regolith can cause equipment to overheat or malfunction.

“For example, if you get dust on an astronaut’s suit and bring it back into the habitat, that dust can stick around the cabin,” said Crystal Acosta, NASA’s inside ERIE payload. Triboelectric sensor board components researcher said. “One of the big problems is that there’s no way to electrically ground anything on the Moon. So even a lander, rover, or really anything on the Moon would have polarity.”

A Kennedy team designed and built the turboelectric sensor board inside the ERIE payload, which reached an altitude of 351,248 feet aboard New Shepard. In the microgravity phase of this flight, dust grains mimicking regolith particles brush against eight insulators inside ERIE, causing tribocharging. The electrometer measured the negative and positive charge of the simulated regolith as it passed through an electric field applied during microgravity.

“We want to know what causes dust to become charged, how it moves, and where it finally settles. Dust has rough edges that can scratch surfaces and block thermal radiators. ” said Jay Phillips, Head of Electrostatics Environments and Spacecraft Charging. NASA Kennedy.

The ERIE payload spent about three minutes in microgravity during the New Shepard capsule’s subflight, lasting about 10 minutes before safely returning to Earth in the Texas desert. A camera recorded the conversation, and Phillips and his team are reviewing the data.

The results will inform applications for future missions to the lunar surface. For example, by using triboelectric sensors on the rover’s wheels, astronauts can positively and Between the vehicle and the regolith . The ultimate goal is to develop technologies that help prevent it from sticking to and damaging astronaut suits and electronics during missions.

The flight was supported by the Flight Opportunity Program, part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which rapidly demonstrates space technologies with industry flight providers.

Reference: NASA experiment sheds light on highly charged moon dust (2024, February 16) Retrieved February 17, 2024 from https://phys.org/news/2024-02-nasa-highly-moon.html

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