Every once in a while a story comes along that makes me not feel so bad about misplacing my keys, or becoming distracted on a trip to town and forgetting to pick up the main item I went there for…
Back during the Apollo moon missions, there were dust detectors deployed on the moon. They gathered data on the buildup of dust, then the braniacs at NASA “lost” the data. The article says, and I quote: “, NASA did not preserve the archival tapes of the data they collected.” Which I think is code for: “some dumb ass deleted it.” Anyway upon learning that they lost the data, Professor Brian O’Brien, who developed the experiment, heard about NASA’s screw up (30 years later), and said “Hey I have backup copies!” This was in 2006, They have spent time since analyzing the data and have discovered that the dust builds up much quicker than they thought. Which is an important discovery, as solar panels lose their effectiveness quickly when dust settles on them. Which in turn means they need to figure out a way to lessen this buildup if they ever want to use the moon as any kind of waystation for exploring our solar system.
Now you may be wondering, “there shouldn’t be any wind on the moon to scatter the dust”? Well, here is a known theory posited by Mr. O’Brian that: a popular idea of a “dust atmosphere” on the Moon could explain the difference. The concept goes that, during each lunar day, solar radiation is strong enough to knock a few electrons out of atoms in dust particles, building up a slight positive charge. On the nighttime side of the Moon, electrons from the flow of energetic particles, called the solar wind, which comes off the Sun strike dust particles and give them a small negative charge. Where the illuminated and dark regions of the moon meet, electric forces could levitate this charged dust, potentially lofting grains high into the lunar sky.
Prof O’brien’s outlook on the situation…” “It’s been a long haul,” said O’Brien. “I invented [the detector] in 1966, long before Monique was even born. At the age of 79, I’m working with a 23-year old working on 46-year-old data and we discovered something exciting — it’s delightful.” ( I assume Monique is someone he works with) Anyway, it is kinda neat that this all has a happy ending. I hope this information leads to a new tech that will help keep solar panels clean, so we can move forward with our journey.