It seems allergies have followed humans all the way to space. Harrison Jack Schmitt, one of the last living astronauts to have visited the moon, has said he suffered from allergies caused by moon dust during his mission in 1972.
Last year during a panel at the STARMUS Space Festival in Zurich, Schmitt revealed he had an overt reaction to lunar dust. Schmitt was a geologist on the mission and spent a lot of time collecting dust samples from the surface of the moon.
Schmitt said some of the dust became stuck to his suit. And when he took it off he became directly exposed. The lunar dust caused the insides of his nose to become swollen and also affected his throat and voice. He also noted that after some subsequent exposure to moon dust, his allergies went away.
Can you imagine training your entire life to visit the moon, only to get there and discover you’re allergic to it? Astronaut problems, right?
Apparently, Schmitt isn’t the only one to have the lunar dust allergy. During the panel he said one of the flight surgeons who was removing space suits from the Apollo 17 module was exposed to moon dust. He also suffered a severe instant reaction and had to stop working briefly.
Now that NASA is looking at sending humans to the moon once again, Schmitt is suggesting allergy testing needs to be a pre-requisite for moon travel. Given the significant advancements in technology in the 50 years since Schmitt travelled to the moon, he was confident that there would be an engineering solution for the problem.
Lunar dust it seems is one of the biggest problems facing astronauts on the moon. In an article from Science Times, Larry Taylor, the director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute, said many Apollo mission astronauts pointed out the issue of moon dust. The particles were said to be difficult to remove and stayed stuck to the suits even after attempts to brush them off.
According to Popular Science, moon dust is also incredibly powdery and soft, making it easy for it to filter into areas unknown. NASA is apparently concerned over the idea that moon dust could infiltrate astronauts lungs and cause something much worse than your typical allergies.
Considering they sent people to the moon, surely NASA can figure out a lunar antihistamine too?