The Primary Life Support System (PLSS), within the xEMU, helps to provide a safe environment for astronauts during lunar exploration. NASA identified seven PLSS venting items that they consider as at risk of operational degradation due to the presence of lunar dust. The intent is to protect these items from the dust that is very invasive, electrostatically and magnetically charged and tends to stick to surfaces due to its static-electricity charges.
To meet this need, Lunar Dust Protection Devices will be designed to stop dust from reaching sealing surfaces or hydrophilic membranes within safety critical PLSS components. Self-sealing silicone covers will be developed to protect valves and quick disconnects until activated by crew force or venting gas pressure, while protective screens will be used to protect the membranes, which flow water vapor intermittently. The protection devices will be treated with anti-static elements to reduce lunar dust adherence and use forces, available during EVA or IVA, to encourage gathered dust to fall from them. The forces include lunar gravity, vibration generated by PLSS rotating equipment, crew impact loads while walking/working, overboard gas flow from PLSS components and crew member interaction. Magnetic brushes can take advantage of the dusts magnetic property, during post-EVA, to remove any remaining dust from the devices.
The Lunar Dust Protection Devices will consume very little weight and volume and no power. Each protection device will be developed addressing specific xEMU item geometry, flow rates, flow direction, fluid properties and related human factors. Functioning prototypes will be constructed using accepted manned flight material and design practices and be tested for analytical correlation. Once proven, these design concepts can be readily adapted to other Artemis dust mitigation needs, offering NASA a common set of solutions that may be deployed throughout lunar exploration systems.
Many countries are interested in lunar exploration, including the USA, EU, Russia and China. Commercial manned exploration is further enhanced by interest of up to three companies competing to build the Lunar Lander. Presented passive, dust protection devices mitigate safety risks and may solve many different challenges when developing commercial exploration systems. Creating a family of Dust Protection Devices may lead to State-of-The-Art solutions applicable to a wide range of applications.
Dust presents challenges to many industries on Earth including coal handling, cement fabrication, metal fabrication, mining, chemical processing, woodworking, pharmaceutical, recycling and agricultural industries. The included covers may be readily applied to protect considerable equipment within these industries since the core “elements” employed to develop them are also present on Earth.