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Moon wears dusty cloak

Old data from Apollo missions stir up debate about lunar dust

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12:00pm, December 3, 2013

DUST PILEUP  Dust covering the lunar surface may stack up faster than scientists suspected. A new analysis of old data from the Apollo missions estimates that moon dust could form a layer 1 millimeter thick every 1000 years. 

Beware of lunar dust bunnies. Moon dust may pile up far more quickly than scientists once thought, and the claim is churning up some controversy. Powdery particles resting on the moon’s surface could form a layer up to 1 millimeter thick every 1,000 years, according to a new analysis of old data.

The estimate relies on data dug up from the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

“It’s pretty remarkable that we’re still getting results out of 40-year-old data,” says physicist James Gaier of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Other researchers have used computers to simulate lunar dust, he says, “but we haven’t really had any data.”

Understanding how fast the dust stacks up could help future moon missions deal with the pesky grains.

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