Jul 22, 2019 | Updated: 09:15 AM EDT

Last Man to Walk the Moon Warns About Moon Dust Allergy

Jul 01, 2019 08:47 AM EDT

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Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, uses an adjustable sampling scoop
(Photo : NASA/Eugene A. Cernan)
Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 17 lunar module pilot, uses an adjustable sampling scoop

In 1972, Harrison Jack Schmitt took part in the final NASA Apollo mission to the moon before the program was scrapped. Schmitt, known to be the last living man to walk the surface of the moon, has claimed that he has sustained illnesses following his mission where he inadvertently inhaled lunar dust.

As part of their mission, the scientist spent hours collecting dust and samples from the surface of the moon. The astronaut stated that the particles that had stuck on his space suit have caused an immediate reaction after he took the suit off. Schmitt reported that the insides of his nose became swollen and that the allergic reaction could be heard from his voice.

In an interview during the STARMUS Space Festival in Zürich, Schmitt stated that the allergy gradually went away for him. By the fourth time the astronaut inhaled lunar dust, there was no noticeable allergic reaction. However, Schmitt noted that a flight surgeon taking the suits out of the Apollo 17 command module was splashed down with lunar dust. The said flight surgeon had such an intense allergic reaction that he had to stop working on his task.

The astronaut suggested that some individuals need to be tested for allergic reactions if they are going to be exposed chronically the moon dust. Learning that NASA is once again sending people to the moon in a few years, it is critical for concerned experts to know that Schmitt suggests avoiding exposure to lunar dust at all costs. If there are many engineering solutions since he flew, the astronaut suggested keeping the dust out of the cabin and the suit as well.

He pointed out that this factor is primarily an engineering problem.

Larry Taylor, the director of Planetary Geosciences Institute stated that the common problem that Apollo Mission astronauts have pointed out is the moon dust. Some astronauts reported that the dust had stayed on their suits even though they have brushed it off. Experts pointed out that moon dust is sharp and abrasive despite looking like pillowy powder with a soft texture. This is because there is no wind or flowing water on the moon that could round the edges of the moon dust particles.

In essence, tiny stone particles that could become embedded into the lungs of the astronauts after inhalation is one of NASA's concerns about the future missions to the moon and mars. These particles could trigger inflammation and scarring as it enters the human body.

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