DCU lab to send first Irish samples to moon since 1970s

29 Nov 2022

Dr Susan Kelleher and Dr Graham Reid. Image: Kyran O'Brien/DCU

Polymer and metal samples from Dr Susan Kelleher’s lab at DCU will be aboard the Rashid lunar rover, with the aim of studying moon dust.

For the first time since the 1970s, samples of materials from Ireland will launch for the moon.

Polymer and metal samples developed in a lab at Dublin City University (DCU) will blast off to the moon tomorrow (30 November) aboard the Rashid lunar rover. The aim is to study moon dust and the way it sticks to different surfaces.

Rashid, the first lunar rover developed by scientists based in the United Arab Emirates, will be brought to the moon aboard the Hakuto-R Mission 1 lunar lander.

Hakuto-R Mission 1 was developed by Japanese space exploration company iSpace as part of its first mission to the moon, and is set to be launched by a SpaceX rocket tomorrow morning.

“We are proud that the surfaces we developed here in the lab at DCU will be the first Irish samples on the moon since the 1970s,” said Dr Susan Kelleher of DCU’s School of Chemical Sciences, who prepared the samples with her team.

Along with Dr Graham Reid, Dr James McCormack and Dr Jessica McFadden, she prepared the samples with the objective to understand how we can solve the “sticky problem” of moon dust for future human or robot explorers on the moon.

“Working with these types of materials teaches us even more about developing new surfaces that can kill bacteria, which will have applications here on Earth, for example in healthcare settings, and in the International Space Station too.”

Using a high resolution camera, the adhesion of moon dust – or regolith – onto different surfaces with be studied. This will help scientists understand how the adhesion of the sharp, dry and fine dust can be reduced.

Moon dust is an abrasive substance that can interfere with electronics. Because of the moon’s lack of an atmosphere, solar wind constantly blasts its surface. This electrostatically charges the dust, which then causes it to stick to everything – from astronauts’ boots to suits and tools.

Professors Denis O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson worked on the first ever Irish experiment on the lunar surface as part of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. More Irish experiments were conducted on Apollo 17.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic