Beethoven, Regolith, and You
Sound & Vision|December 2021 - January 2022
WIDE ANGLE SIGNALS
KEN C. POHLMANN

The year is 1969. I am sitting in front of my family’s TV watching live black-and-white video from the moon. High-definition TV is still science fiction, but in the blurry picture I can see Neil Armstrong descend the ladder and step onto the lunar surface.

In the middle of the transmission, I walk outside and look up at the moon, waxing crescent, thoroughly amazed that for the first time people are up there looking back at me. Now, almost a lifetime later, we are preparing to go back to the moon. Just writing that sentence gives me goosebumps.

Sure, we have lots of problems here on earth. But that’s no reason not to send men and women to further explore the moon. To reword the oft-quoted phrase, we need to go there not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Getting there is hard. Staying there for an extended period might be even harder. What do you breathe? What do you eat? Where do you live? What do you do about the dust? The dust? Say what?

The moon is covered by a thick layer of material called regolith. And regolith contains dust. Lots of dust. Take a look at some of the Apollo photographs. The astronauts’ spacesuits are dirty with dust. When a fender on their lunar rover failed, it was mission-critical to rig up a replacement (using lunar maps) to prevent the dust from kicking up everywhere. The famous photographs of boot prints in the lunar dust are historic, but they spell trouble.

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