Does regolith mean any threat for people visting the Moon or the Mars?

If yes, what is that?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Dust on earth has been jostled about by wind and water, rounding off the sharp corners. In contrast Lunar dust has sharp edges, very abrasive. That might pose a problem if it gets into moving parts. It could also mess up seals to keep enclosures airtight. You certainly wouldn't want to get moon dust on your hands and then rub it in your eyes. $\endgroup$
    – HopDavid
    Jun 5, 2014 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. If you hit it too hard when landing, it will kill you. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Adler
    Jun 8, 2014 at 7:13
  • $\begingroup$ Of possible interest; Feb. 2018 Phys.org's Dust dilemma settles on upcoming moon missions $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Feb 24, 2018 at 4:18

1 Answer 1


Firstly, the Lunar and Martian regolith will be quite different in composition.

Wikipedia has a short list of the harmful effects of Lunar dust, these have been added to, to include potential harmful effects of Martian dust.

  1. Darkening of surfaces, leading to a considerable increase in radiative heat transfer

  2. Abrasive nature of the dust particles may rub and wear down surfaces through friction

  3. Negative effect on coatings used on gaskets to seal equipment from space, optical lenses that include solar panels and windows as well as wiring

  4. Possible damage to astronaut's lungs, nervous, and cardiovascular systems

  5. it can short circuit equipment since some of it is metallic dust

  6. wedge into small openings or spacesuit fabric or stick to it magnetically and cause triboelectric (rubbing) and/or surface photoelectric discharge

  7. contain dangerous chemicals like e.g. calcium perchlorate salts on Mars

  8. it can cover "traps" on untraversed lands, such as dry ice fans, other volatiles, ravines, cracked lava tubes

  9. Cause substantial surface temperature differential

  10. airborne dust can cause electric storms

  11. reduce visibility

As for the Martian soil there is a whole host of articles discussing this topic, for example:

Or for how I found this paper: Google Scholar.

One difference between the Martian and Lunar regolith is the degree to which is it moved. Mars has an atmospheric pressure of around 600 Pa, where as the moon is much lower at 0.3 nPa (0.3*10-9 Pa) - that's about 2 thousand billion times lower. So you could logically expect the Martian atmosphere to carry a much larger amount of regolith in dust storms - creating a large issue when looking at regolith covering sensors etc.

EDITED to add notes from TidalWave.


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