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Scientists used liquid nitrogen to blast Moon dust off a Barbie

Published Apr 15th, 2023 9:01AM EDT
moon surface, moon dust
Image: helen_f / Adobe

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A new study has found that liquid nitrogen could act as a great Moon dust remover. Ever since the first astronauts stepped foot on the surface of the Moon, astronauts have been looking for better ways to keep their spacesuits clean.

In the past, they would use abrasive brushes to remove the powdery dust from their spacesuits. However, scientists say those brushes degraded the material of the suits themselves. Keeping its newest spacesuits clean is vital because too much Moon dust can cause their seals to stop working.

Additionally, without a better way to remove Moon dust from the spacesuits, astronauts risk exposure to the dust themselves, which can be very toxic when it comes in contact with human cells — even causing an illness called lunar hay fever.

nasa next-generation spacesuits in use on MoonImage source: NASA

Since NASA’s Artemis missions hope to set up a more permanent base on the lunar surface, scientists are working to find a better Moon dust remover for astronauts on the surface to work with. That’s where this new study comes in.

According to the authors, liquid nitrogen is able to remove Moon dust. To test the theory, the authors took volcanic ash (which is similar in composition to Moon dust) and covered Barbies, who had been equipped with makeshift spacesuits, in the dust.

Next, the researchers sprayed the suited Barbies with liquid nitrogen, and the volcanic ash was repelled from the suits with little to no damage being caused to the suits themselves. They say this would cause less degradation than the old brushes they used to rely on.

The researchers presented the findings to NASA, who awarded them for discovering such an effective Moon dust remover. Perhaps future Artemis missions to the Moon will rely on liquid nitrogen or something similar to keep Moon dust off the spacesuits. Or, perhaps, we’ll see other methods come to light in the coming months.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.