Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Edge of Known Space (part 2)

Now that exploration has moved beyond planet earth, there are new challenges that must be considered. If things go wrong, what resources are available in space? At least with the explorers of the early world, a steady supply of air was a resource no one ever questioned. Even if a sailor, like Magellan, faced the open seas for endless months, food could be obtained from the sea. Less obvious challenges, like the dust of a new planet, might also present serious problems to planetary explorers--astronauts that landed on the moon faced complications caused by the fine "moon dust" that coated their boots and gummed-up their space-suit joints, spreading inside the capsule for the ride home. The stuff became airborne and "smelled like gunpowder," giving the astronauts a sort of lunar hay-fever. It was later discovered that this fine dust was similar to silica, which is dangerous to human lungs, much like the silicosis over 16,000 miners have died from.

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