The Astronaut Who Was Allergic To The Moon

NASA's Harrison Schmitt was in for a rough surprise when he found out that he was allergic to moon dust.
The Astronaut Who Was Allergic To The Moon

Between the lack of oxygen, reliance on technology working perfectly, and the ever-present risk of an alien attack (it could happen!), a trip to the moon seems terrifying. However, beneath all of these obvious dangers, the lunar surface holds a hidden one, waiting for the opportunity to strike: dust. Yes, one of the final astronauts to step foot on the moon's surface learned the hard way that moon dust is no joke. 

Harrison Schmitt was an astronaut on the Apollo 17 mission, which landed on the moon on December 11, 1972. While most astronauts in previous missions had backgrounds in military aviation, Schmitt was a professional geologist with a Ph.D. from Harvard. With his expertise, the Apollo 17 mission resulted in some of the best samples of lunar rocks being brought back to Earth. This included Troctolite 76535, one of the most important rocks NASA has found in terms of research value.

Harrison Schmitt NASA astronaut - The Astronaut Who Was Allergic To The Moon

NASA/Wiki Commons

Astronauts can overcome intense g-force, but allergens are undefeated.

Intentional samples weren't the only thing that Schmitt and the crew picked up, though. The moon is a dusty place, and astronauts on the lunar surface found themselves covered like a hand out of a Cheetos bag after their lunar walks; the dust could get so bad that it could even become a danger for suit integrity

After completing a moonwalk with fellow astronaut Eugene Cernan, Schmitt returned to the lunar module and removed his suit. Immediately, he began reacting to the dust-- sneezing, red eyes, and throat irritation. While allergic reactions are never fun, the experience of having a bodily response to otherworldly dust must be its own league of terrifying. Interestingly, Schmitt did note that he did not respond as badly after a few exposures from later moonwalks.

Schmitt wasn't the only person whose body said nope to moon dust, either. After the astronauts returned to Earth, a flight surgeon had a reaction from dust on suits they were removing from the module. Studies have found that moon dust can be dangerous. It can damage cells, especially in the lungs, when breathed in. What Schmitt experienced might not have necessarily been an allergic reaction as much as it was that human lungs really don't want moon dust anywhere near them. (All those plans official NASA Astro-bongs got axed.)

Fortunately for Harrison Schmitt, his bad encounter with lunar dust did not seem to have any long-term consequences, and he's still alive today. Schmitt retired as an astronaut in the mid-1970s, and then he successfully ran for Senate from New Mexico. We assume government work was undoubtedly more annoying than allergic reactions to space dust.

Top Image: NASA


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