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Possible Problem martian dust - how to handle it?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:13 pm
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Possible Problem martian dust - how to handle it? 
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Post Possible Problem martian dust - how to handle it?   Posted on: Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:13 pm
According to the article "Solving Settlement Problems: Dealing with Moon Dust" ( www.space.com/adastra/adastra_moondust_060223.html ) martian duts could be a poison and toxic.

Quote:
Martian dust could be even worse. It is not only a mechanical irritant but also perhaps a chemical poison. Mars is red because its surface consists largely of iron oxide and oxides of other minerals. Some scientists suspect that the dusty soil on Mars may be such a strong oxidizer that it will burn any organic compound, such as plastics, rubber, or human skin, as viciously as undiluted lye or laundry bleach.

"If you get Martian soil on your skin, it will leave burn marks," says University of Colorado engineering professor Stein Sture, who studies granular materials such as lunar and Martian dirt for NASA. Because no soil samples have ever been returned from Mars, "we do not know for sure how strong it is, but it could be pretty vicious," says Sture.

Moreover, according to data from the Pathfinder mission, Martian dust may also contain trace amounts of toxic metals, including arsenic and hexavalent chromium—a carcinogenic toxic waste. That was a surprising finding presented in a 2002 National Research Council report called "Safe on Mars: Precursor Measurements Necessary to Support Human Operations on the Martian Surface."

The dust challenge would be especially acute during the windstorms that occasionally envelop Mars from pole to pole. Dust whips through the air, scouring every exposed surface and sifting into every crevice. There would be no place to hide.



What ways might be there to handle that?

What about the rovers, their whells, solar cells and equipment else? Up to now there seem to be little problems only and I haven't read nowhere yet that these problems are supposed to have to do with the dust. So - should spacesuits and boots for Mars be made of materials used for the rovers?

What about habitats, buildings of a permanent station or even a colony? Could it be a solution to apply materials and chemicals to a whole area the martian dust and soil then would oxidize to and so loose its danger a bit at least?

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Post Re: Possible Problem martian dust - how to handle it?   Posted on: Wed Mar 01, 2006 3:00 am
[quote="Ekkehard Augustin"] "Mars is red because its surface consists largely of iron oxide and oxides of other minerals. Some scientists suspect that the dusty soil on Mars may be such a strong oxidizer... "/quote]

I'm always suspicious of statements that start with "Some scientists suspect". Wouldn't the corollary be "Most scientists don't suspect"?

Oxides are the result of oxidation, not the cause of it. The surface of the Earth consists largley of oxides too. Hydrogen & silicon oxides mainly.

More likely problems are abrasiveness, like Moon dust, although Mars dust should experience weathering to smooth off sharp edges. It will also react to contact with water, either directly or even humidity in a habitat's atmosphere. Might just turn to sludge or glue, or it might fizz a bit or even explode.

The Viking results were inconclusive on the toxic trace elements. I'm sure Earth dust containes a lot of dangerous elements & compounds too. Plutonium, strontium, dioxin, diesel soot. Need I go on?

The only way to tell for sure is a sample return mission, or a lander with a really good test kit. But the rovers don't seem to be having much of a problem yet.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 01, 2006 9:54 am
Hello, WannabeSpaceCadet,

"some scientists", "most scientists", "majority" and "minority" mustn't be criterions for answers to the question which scintific view, interpretation or theory to prefer and which not. In science logic, causaaty and the answer to the question into which theory, view or interpretation the reality fits best should be the only criterions as far as possible.

Majorities and minorities etc. are too political and democtratic criterions for deciding what's correct scientifically and what not. These criterions would replace logic etc. by psyche-oriented subjective decisions which will be changed as it is felt comfortable.Arbitraryness would start to rule science and chaos would take over - the world would end up ina new middle-age.

Rgearding the oxides - you are right so far, but oxides aren't oxidizers. And the artciel seems to be saying that the martian dust may be very oxidizing. The eartian dust and soil is a good oxidizer also which can be experienced by watching erosive and coorosive processes in nature - iron-containing rocks for example. And the earthian deseerts at least partially are sinks of oxygen - desrtification partially is the result of corrosion and erosion, of oxidation.

Since the martian atmosphere does contain nearly no oxygen very lot of the dust simply might not have oxidized up to now only because of the lack of oxygen. The water is forzen and is out of reach to it - it's accessable only at it's surface. chemical reactions may be slow only perhaps and available to that dust only which covers the frozen water.

So the touch to human skin might be the first opportunity to oxidize - the first touch to boots or space suits might be such a first opportunity also - that depends on the material.

What seems to be known already is that the dust partially seems to mean that former water in the Gusev crater has been very salty - and salts can be poisns and toxic. Sulfuric dusts could from sulfuric acid or sulfur acid when getting in touch with lquid or water on the human skin or on something else humans carry to Mars.

Of course - a sample return mission should be done - but then the sampla has to be handled so that it is kept into the state it had on Mars originally - to avoid any changes which might be caused by the earthian environment. It will have to be examined in a lab or a container in which a Mars-like environement is created. To this answers got by this thread could be applied and helpful.

Please not get wrong what I say now - but sometimes a post like yours partially makes be ask if my question or proposal is cosnidered to be uncomfortable but I am interested in thinking about possibly needed solutions simply - and in hinting to opportunities for students etc. to work about by thesis, by dissertation and much more.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 01, 2006 11:11 am
It is very difficult to tell whether Martian soil contain very dangerour substances now
oxides can be found anywhere on Earth.Iron oxides is simply rust.
It can't be that harmful
Also, the rover doesn't show any damage due to Martian soil yet after already 2years and 1 month of surface operation
Electric wires on the rover has plastic coat, I think
The body is also made of metals
So, are the plastic and metal damaged?
So, we must wait for the first mars sample before coming to the conclusion


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Post    Posted on: Wed Mar 01, 2006 2:16 pm
There are a few little possibel hints:

- one of Spirit's whells is or was blocked and don't or didn't work anymore requiring the rover to move backwards

- wire(s) of one of the motors steering the instrument-arm is/are broken causing non-function of that motor

- the solar cells of both the rovers don't generate the original former amont of electricity.

The causes of these are supposed only if looked at it precisely - since nobody is there and can investigate the hardware.

It is possible that a few dust grains which were on the surface of the solar cells oxidized with that surface or whatÄ's below the surface. They might have oxidized with the axle of the non-working wheel as well as with that wheel itself. And dust might have chemically reacted with the wire(s) of the motor.

That it is not known if the dust is a chemical poison and toxic really is no sufficient reason not to think about solutions - to think about them would and will accelerate the process to find solutuions to what will be found by analyzing and investigating a returned sample.

More - the way, the instruments, the methods, the lab etc. to invetigate and analyze a returned sample have to take into account what's supposed currently and so might have to apply some of the solutions the search for I am stimulating here.



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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 06, 2006 2:31 am
I'm not suggesting that this question should not be considered, only that the story you refer to sounds like a bit of exaggeration.

I have noticed before that some scientists will publicly announce a "serious potential threat" to future space travel, and then seek funding of their own research to determine the exact nature & level of the threat. This could consume huge amounts of time and money.

Better to say, "That might be a problem, I'll design around it for the first mission, then re-evaluate, with experience, for follow-on missions."

Mars is a good example. Don't try to design a "perfect" mission, knowing exactly what the effects and limits of zero-G, radiation, isolation, claustrophobia, Mars dust, Mars' longer day, etc, will be. Instead "over-engineer" it. Build a big vehicle that can get there fairly fast, give it a big (40m + diameter) rotating section, lots of water for radiation shielding, lots of living room, huge comms bandwidth, hazardous environment suits, multiple redundancy, well-equipped workshop, etc.

Pay the upfront cost of extra launches, rather than scrimp & save on weight budgets at huge expense to dollar budgets. Do a mission, finding out what works and what doesn't, where the real issues are. Then you can design equipment to meet the exact conditions.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 06, 2006 10:00 am
8900 wrote:
It is very difficult to tell whether Martian soil contain very dangerour substances now
oxides can be found anywhere on Earth.Iron oxides is simply rust.
It can't be that harmful
Also, the rover doesn't show any damage due to Martian soil yet after already 2years and 1 month of surface operation
Electric wires on the rover has plastic coat, I think
The body is also made of metals
So, are the plastic and metal damaged?
So, we must wait for the first mars sample before coming to the conclusion


I think that the Mars rovers have shown that the toxicity of the soil isn't really a problem for machines. However the atmosphere is very dry so it might become a problem for Astronauts who will need to live in much more humid conditions when the soil is combined with water. To answer that question properly you need a sample return mission or maybe a couple of missions to bring back a range of soil types for analysis.

I think that just adding water to the soil might change its chemical properties enough to cause problems so assuming it is harmless because it hasn't damaged the rovers would not be sensible.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 07, 2006 1:41 pm
WannabeSpaceCadet wrote:
I have noticed before that some scientists will publicly announce a "serious potential threat" to future space travel, and then seek funding of their own research to determine the exact nature & level of the threat. This could consume huge amounts of time and money.

This is a serious potential threat to science, if not democracy itself. I only see it as my duty to seek funding to assist my studies into the true extent of this continuing abuse.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Mar 10, 2006 9:33 am
If it turns out that the martian dust is toxic, acidic and highly oxydizing really then what about preparing small places and locations via exposing them to water or other sources of oxygen the dust can oxydize to a degree that removes its toxicity? ...



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Post    Posted on: Wed Aug 02, 2006 12:19 pm
There is another toxicity linked to the dust according to the article "Studies Find the Toxic Side of Martian Dust Storms" ( www.space.com/scienceastronomy/060731_m ... torms.html ).

Quote:
Small dust devils and planet-wide storms – combined with static electricity – may lead to the formation of hydrogen peroxide and other corrosive chemicals that fall to the Martian surface as a sort of toxic snow


Might it be possible to use such dust-caused chemicals to get even rid of toxic dusts not transformed? What about - alternatively - using such chemicals as instruments for getting rid of the dust by exposing neutralizing chemicals brought from Earth. It would be interesting if the then resulting chemicals in turn could be used to modify the remaining dust into harmless dust.

...



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:14 pm
The article "Future Mars Explorers Face Dusty Challenges" ( www.space.com/businesstechnology/070711 ... light.html ) points to additional aspects:

1.
Quote:
Among the concerns: Astronauts could get a real charge out of simply walking around.


2.
Quote:
dust could coat equipment like electrostatic spray paint,
3.
Quote:
short out electronics in a spacesuit, or even

4.
Quote:
zap a craft and prevent astronauts from coming home
.
5.
Quote:
Meantime, inhaling the tiny particles will have potential health consequences that are unknown today.


Quote:
"The surface dust on Mars is probably 50 times finer than on Earth," said John Wilson
and
Quote:
...the ultra-fine dust exists in an extremely thin and dry atmosphere


Quote:
"If you walk through, pick up or simply touch the dust, it would gather charge and stick to you. We've already seen this on the rovers' wheels," said Geoffrey Landis, a physicist with the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. "Things get even more interesting when winds come by and separate the charge."

Landis explained an astronaut would be a walking electric field and attract even more dust to the spacesuit. The theoretical phenomenon is known as the triboelectric effect and is similar to the current generated while walking across a carpet floor during the winter, when the air is extremely dry and can't soak up static charge well.



Regarding health problems it is said that
Quote:
...in gravity only 38 percent of the Earth's, the dust may hang around in living spaces longer and penetrate more deeply into astronauts' lungs if particles are small enough.


But on the other hand there is an issue I find interesting because of the earlier stated toxicity of the martian dust:
Quote:
Kerschmann noted that an upside to Martian dust is that billions of years of wind erosion have most likely polished the dust grains to a minimally toxic level.




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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:44 pm
If would indeed cause electric circuitry to short circuit, the rovers would allready have experienced that. But with a combined lifespan of 6 earth years, it's not that likely or simply to overcome by protecting the electric parts. If you have an airtight packaging system, i don't think dust can enter it if no air gets in ot out of it.

About the static shock. How much volts is this? Possible to draw electricity from this? (sorry in advance, i don't have much knowledge of electrical engineering or circuitry.)

A solution for the dust bringing it into a colony when it sticks to the spacesuit is to wash it in the airlock. Or better. Use a seperate locked 'room' which you use for the space suits.

Dust-masks is maybe an ad-hoc solution \ countermeasure if there would be a leak in the colony of some sorts. (apart that the pressure leak is of a much bigger concern then dust)

Perhaps a suitable solution would be to have a pretty high humidity in a habitat on Mars. The dust should settle in the airdrops and condense somewhere else.

The biggest problem for the dust are mechanical parts imo. With airtight packaging, a lot of the mentioned problems should be probably solved or at least minimized. Imo.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 13, 2007 12:55 pm
Regarding humidity or water to wash the dust away there might be a danger if the dust really consists of acids partially - like H2SO4. This would increase the problems if they exist.

The argument regarding the health of the rovers I was thinking about too a bit. The article mentions their wheels because of electrostatic charge. But their electronics may be that insulated against the outer environment that this may be the reason why no problems occurred up to now. Spacesuits´, manned landers and manned rovers wouldn't be that insulated against the martian environments because astronauts would have to leave and/or reenter them as well as to do repairs perhaps which never could happen regarding the rovers.

There seem to be two or three possible points of view and standpoints at present. May be more will be found.


...



What about it?



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 13, 2007 1:06 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
Regarding humidity or water to wash the dust away there might be a danger if the dust really consists of acids partially - like H2SO4. This would increase the problems if they exist.


Mmm, anyway to break apart this molecule in their respective atoms?

Quote:
The argument regarding the health of the rovers I was thinking about too a bit. The article mentions their wheels because of electrostatic charge. But their electronics may be that insulated against the outer environment that this may be the reason why no problems occurred up to now. Spacesuits´, manned landers and manned rovers wouldn't be that insulated against the martian environments because astronauts would have to leave and/or reenter them as well as to do repairs perhaps which never could happen regarding the rovers.

I'm not sure what you exactly mean with the last line, but i assume that the dust will not enter the spacesuit itself. It just sticks onto the suit because of the electrostatic charge. Is there any information avalaible on the composition of this dust?


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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 13, 2007 1:32 pm
The only informations I personally know of are those reported by the articles quoted in this thread plus informations by NASA. The dust is said to be highly oxidating and acidic. It has been said that it would leave burn marks if a human would get it on his skin.

The problem regarding the spacesuits I was speaking about is that they consist of components that need to be dismounted when an astronaut wants to undon the suit or don the suit. This means that they allways and unpreventable will have a few small areas where they are a bit less tight than in general. These are areas where dust might enter when the spacesuit is undonned later and if the complete outer side of the suit ois washed the dust may be carried towards those areas by the water and gather there. If it is acidic the washing may damage the suit but this can be avoided by the choice of material. But at the time the suit is undonned the dust might be got to the interior of the suit because it is exposed to the perhaps contamined environment now.

If the spacesuit would NOT be made up of components - helmet and the rest for example - the danger indeed wouldn't exist I think.

The idea of breaking apart the molecules is interesting but which methods else can we imagine? Or how breaking the molecules apart best?



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