Thursday, June 24, 2021
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How Space Robots Will Be Protected From Dust


The dozen astronauts who landed on the moon between 1969 and 1972 found moondust to be an unexpected challenge. Not only was it so abrasive that it wore partially through the outer gloves of their space suits, it stuck to everything. The more they tried to brush it away, the more it worked its way into the space suits’ fabric. In the 1970s, electrical engineering professor Senichi Masuda of the University of Tokyo—a pioneer in electrostatics—came up with the ‘electric curtain’. This creates an electromagnetic wave that rapidly traveles horizontally across a surface on which electrodes are distributed. The technology expelled dust particles. This was tested in a vacuum similar to that on the moon and worked flawlessly, expelling dust designed to resemble moon regolith dust. It is expected that some form of this technology will be used to protect future robots designed to explore the moon and mars. Microphotograph courtesy of David McKay, NASA/JSC.