As NASA embarks on a new era of manned lunar missions, it needs a means to reliably monitor the mass of suspended airborne particulate matter in its inhabited environments. Apollo missions revealed surprising levels of dust in the near-surface lunar environment. This dust is implicated in fouling of joints and seals on equipment. It is also believed to be an inhalation hazard. As NASA takes precautions to prevent the transport of this lunar dust into its inhabited environments, both on the orbiter and lunar habitats, it needs a means to assess whether those controls are effective. This method must be sufficiently accurate to guide NASA crews and operations, and reliable for long-term deployment.
This Phase I project explores the use of ensemble optical methods, including both angular scattering dependencies and light intensity fluctuations, to assess suspended particulate mass in the identified size fractions below 10µm and below 2.5µm. Additionally, it will incorporate a space-proven ultrafine particle monitor to distinguish the presence of particles below 100 nm in size which are characteristic of smokes. The ensemble scattering approach uses an optically defined sampling volume, eliminating the need for small focusing nozzles that can become clogged, thereby increasing the robustness of the instrument.
This project targets NASA's stated need to monitor the mass of suspended airborne particulate matter aboard the Artemis lunar habitat and spaceship environments. Envisioned is a compact, low-power instrument that could be deployed in multiple locations within these environments. The aim is a robust monitor that indicates whether the control measures are effective in excluding lunar dust from these environments.
Robust monitoring of airborne particulate matter is needed in many environments, from assessing ambient air quality, to measurements in industrial fabrication and warehousing facilities. Future extension of the underlying concepts of the ensemble scattering detector of this project are readily extended to Earth-based applications, and could fill the important need for air quality monitoring.