Long has the Moon been the object of human wonder. We’ve imagined it as a goddess roaming the sky; an alien world; a silent nighttime guardian. Now, some scientists are envisioning it as a veritable minefield. Of what? Well, a literal minefield: of lunar dust.
Once, we might have dreamed of mining for precious gems or ice buried in the Moon’s rocky ground. A study suggests, however, that a valuable resource sits right on the surface: dust that can be shot into space, forming a cooling shadow over Earth.
Since climate crisis is a big problem, it needs a big solution. Or, in this case, many, many tiny solutions, in the form of lunar dust granules at just the right size. Launched from a lunar cannon like a swarm of miniscule parasols, dust grains would hover about a million miles away from Earth, blocking around 2 percent of incoming sunlight and reducing global warming.
If humans implemented this policy, we could soon see the Moon not as a mythological figure—or sphere of green cheese—but as a vast resource, needing astronauts and engineers to set up the technology. What kid doesn’t dream of exploring the cosmos? After all, the study suggests, billions of tons of dust would need to be launched every week to keep the shield replenished, since the granules would slowly disperse into space.
It’s a fun thought experiment, the researchers suggest, but unlikely to be put into practice: the amount of time and money for such a project is, well, astronomical. Better instead to focus on Earthbound strategies, like reducing carbon emissions, and to let the Moon remain an unmined wonder.