Prof Brian J O'Brien  - NASA Principal Investigator - Lunar Dust Expert


Apollo astronauts had to overcome nine types of always troubling and sometimes dangerous effects of fine abrasive lunar dust as their inescapable Number 1 environmental problem on the Moon and the only problem for which they had no training. The only measurements of movements of such dust were made by the matchbox-sized Apollo Dust Detector Experiments (DDEs) invented by Professor Brian  J. O'Brien on 12 January 1966 as a risk-management instrument before either the Soviet Union Luna 9 or the US Surveyor 1 had taken the photographs of lunar soil.



Dust in your eyes

Prior to the Apollo landings, it was thought that there would be a heavy dust layer deposited on the experiment packages during Lunar Module ascent and possibly from other long-term sources. In the end, the Lunar and Planetary Institute web site now say that dust was not a major issue. Brian knows otherwise.

Apollo 12 DDE with 1 cent O'Brien label 1968 2008 copy.jpg

The Detector

O'Brien's original invention proposed to NASA in January 1966, attached a tiny bead-like thermometer on the back of each cell. This is the only Apollo experiment measuring both cause and effect of dust heating spacesuits and equipment, jamming zippers and increasing friction-like effects on moving parts, common problems on each Apollo mission.