While NASA has yet to indicate whether they are in favor of roaming space bases, or one that remains stationary, one design element seems to be clear–inflatable lunar bases seem to be gaining favor with the space agency (which is probably good news for companies like Architexture and Vision and Bigelow Aerospace).
Despite the fact that Moon is only three days away by rockets, NASA may be pondering about whether or not to establish a “long term” presence on the Moon via 6 month lunar missions.
(Physorg.com) The US space agency hopes to build moon bases that can house astronauts for stays of up to six months, with an intricate transportation and power system, Carl Walz, director of NASA’s Advanced Capabilities Division, said Friday.
NASA is examining different designs for lunar outposts but that they could be inspired by the orbiting International Space Station (ISS), he said.
“We need to establish a long, extended presence on the moon, up to six months — same as the time we spend at ISS,” Walz, a veteran astronaut, told AFP during a forum on the future of NASA at the University of Miami.
“I would anticipate that we would build something similar as what we are building for the ISS, but maybe something different,” he said.
While NASA’s means of accomplishing this lunar goal may be subject to debate (hat tip:Space Transport News), at least the agency is at least heading in the right direction (as exploring these worlds in person is better than glimpsing at them from afar).
If humanities overall goal is to eventually settle upon other worlds, we first have to locate ideal spots to establish a home.
This is probably easier said than done, as many engineers would prefer future space bases to be located near potential energy sources (i.e. in continuous sunlight), while many scientists would prefer them next to interesting features (such as craters, mountains, etc.).
But instead of arguing out where our species should establish its first permanent base, why not opt for nomadic ones via our mechanical friends?
(New Scientist Space) NASA engineers are testing out a giant, six-legged robot that could pick up and move a future Moon base thousands of kilometres across the lunar surface, allowing astronauts to explore much more than just the area around their landing site. […]
But a gargantuan robotic vehicle called ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) could change that. Measuring about 7.5 metres wide, with legs more than 6 metres long, the robot could act essentially like a turtle, carrying the astronauts’ living quarters around on its back.
Using giant robots to transport space bases may prove to be a better alternative than their stationary friends as the robots could move the base out of harms way from an upcoming solar storm as well as help shelter the base during a Martian globacane.
These mechanical insect giants could also solve the “energy dilemma,” by constantly moving within the Sun’s rays on the Moon (assuming that they would be solar powered of course).
(Videos: ATHLETE robot demonstrating its ability at carrying potential space bases, drilling holes, and traveling over terrain, Credit: NASA / JPL, via New Scientist Space).
(Google Press Release) “Some people are calling Virgle an ‘interplanetary Noah’s Ark,'” said Virgin Group President and Founder Sir Richard Branson, who conceived the new venture. “I’m one of them. It’s a potentially remarkable business, but more than that, it’s a glorious adventure. For me, Virgle evokes the spirit of explorers such as Christopher Columbus and Marco Polo, who set sail looking for the New World. I do hope we’ll be a bit more efficient about actually finding it, though.” […]
“Virgle is the ultimate application of a principle we’ve always believed at Google: that you can do well by doing good,” said Google co-founder Larry Page, who plans to share leadership of the new Martian civilization with Branson and Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
“We feel that ensuring the survival of the human race by helping it colonize a new planet is both a moral good in and of itself and also the most likely method of ensuring the survival of our best – okay, fine, only — base of web search volume and advertising inventory,” Page added. “So, you know, it’s, like, win-win.”
Despite the fact that experts have pointed out that terraforming Mars may be a bad idea, Sergey Brin has decided to lead the charge and is asking humans with Earthen citizenship to join him in his quest to conquer the crimson planet.
Sergey Brin is asking interested users to not only fill out the necessary forms online, but to also submit a video proving why they should be one of the lucky few to join him and several hundred pigs on the surface of another world.
Note: While Brin works out getting the permits for establishing a Martian colony, Larry Page is working on the Jupiter mission which involves settling the moons Ganymede and Callisto in the hopes of expanding Virgle’s empire across the solar system.
With NASA preparing to send humans once more to the Moon, many people have been envisioning humans creating lunar space bases out of metals either mined from our Earthen cradle or from the asteroids far away.
While building with such materials may add to the beauty of a lunar home, it would also add to the cost, raising the price tag of us settling lunar side. In order to help keep costs down (and the vision from being potentially killed) it may be better for humanity to choose lunar rocks and dirt instead.
(Universe Today) As it turns out, lunar regolith has many useful properties for construction on the Moon. To complement lunar concrete (as introduced earlier in Part 2), basic building structures may be formed from cast regolith. Cast regolith would be very similar to terrestrial cast basalt. Created by melting regolith in a mold and allowing it to cool slowly would allow a crystalline structure to form, resulting in highly compressive and moderately tensile building components. The high vacuum on the Moon would greatly improve the manufacturing process of the material. We also have experience here on Earth in how to create cast basalt, so this isn’t a new and untested method. Basic habitat shapes could be manufactured with little preparation of the raw materials. Elements like beams, columns, slabs, shells, arch segments, blocks and cylinders could be fabricated, each element having ten times the compressive and tensile strength of concrete.
Using lunar rock as a main building block for lunar bases may not only reduce the overall cost of us setting foot abroad, but also help protect ourselves from cosmic radiation (as it would be much easier and cheaper than powering artificial magnetic fields).
While these thick lunar walls may be able to resist being penetrated by tiny incoming space rocks from above, it may be wise for NASA to consider “insulating” the walls with inflatable material as an extra precaution.
Aside from the sun, the celestial object that is the most familiar to kids and adults alike is the Moon.
While other planets and moons may offer a more exciting environment, our second journey towards the stars will probably begin with our lunar friend in the sky, in part due towards its distance from Earth.
However, if humanity ever decides to dwell upon lunar soils, they will have to figure out a way first to survive upon them.
(Universe Today) So where do you start when designing a Lunar Base? High up on the structural engineers “to do” list would be the damage building materials may face when exposed to a vacuum. Damage from severe temperature variations, high velocity micrometeorite impacts, high outward forces from pressurized habitats, material brittleness at very low temperatures and cumulative abrasion by high energy cosmic rays and solar wind particles will all factor highly in the planning phase. Once all the hazards are outlined, work can begin on the structures themselves. […]
The actual construction of a base will be very difficult in itself. Obviously, the low-G environment poses some difficulty to construction workers to get around, but the lack of an atmosphere would prove very damaging. Without the buffering of air around drilling tools, dynamic friction will be amplified during drilling tasks, generating huge amounts of heat. Drill bits and rock will fuse, hindering progress. Should demolition tasks need to be carried out, explosions in a vacuum would create countless high velocity missiles tearing through anything in their path, with no atmosphere to slow them down. […] Also, the ejected dust would obscure everything and settle, statically, on machinery and contaminate everything.
With all of these problems presented challenges, it is quite evident that space is not a place for either cowards or the foolish (as dying in the final frontier is not exactly healthy for the body).
While a complete lists of hurdles towards colonization will probably expand as we gather more information about our little lunar sister, here are some helpful solutions that may ensure that we are able to inhabit the moon, let alone revisit it.
Vacuum and temperature variations: NASA and Russia have probably had the most experience dealing with the issues (after all the International Space Station is a perfect example) so this may not be a worrisome issue lunar side.
High velocity micrometeorite impacts: With the moon lacking a noticeable atmosphere, space rocks raining down from on high could easily spell the death of a lunar base (let alone a colony).
Inflatable buildings (Bigelow style) may be the solution towards ensuring that we survive on the surface, although building a basement underground probably would not hurt as well.
High outward forces from pressurized habitats: Inflatable buildings (or habitats) may solve this dilemma, something Ian O’Neill expands upon over at Universe Today.
Material brittleness at very low temperatures: Again, NASA (and other space agencies) probably have this issue pretty much wrapped up (as those Martian golf carts, among other examples are a testament to).
Abrasion by cosmic rays and solar wind particles: This will probably be the most difficult, although like any building on Earth, lunar habitats will have to be constantly maintained in order to ensure their safety.
Drilling and digging underground: With the lack of atmosphere on the Moon, drilling may become useless, especially when lunar rocks begin to meld to the drill bits used to pierce the lunar surface.
One solution is to enclose a fairly large area with an inflatable structure, pump it full of air (perhaps via oxygen extracted from lunar dirt) which would help reduce the friction from massive moon digs.
Lunar Dust Love (contamination via static): Since lunar dust could pose a problem to both man and machine, and finding a way to remove it is critical towards establishing a beachhead on Luna (aka the Moon).
Even though humanity may not have the technology to implement solutions to all of these problems above, they can take the necessary steps to create defenses against these solar show stoppers–thus ensuring that our species survives its first step towards conquering the final frontier.