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Space Moon

Self-Sufficient Lunar Habitat Designed 284

Posted by kdawson
from the hydroponics-with-a-side-of-tilapia dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Cosmos Magazine reports on a design for a lunar habitat that is 90 to 95 percent self-sufficient. The proposed habitat uses a closed-loop life support system that recycles and regenerates air, water, and food, reducing the need for costly supply trips. The north pole of the moon is chosen as a location because of its access to sunlight and useful resources. About 11 astronauts could live and work in the habitat for 2 to 3 years. The project would also help the environment on Earth with recycling and other sustainable practices." The designers say it could be 20 to 30 years before such a habitat could be up and running on the moon.
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Self-Sufficient Lunar Habitat Designed

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  • by Lumpy (12016)
    we can use it to save some of our planet's plants by creating a space "eden" to save from extinction.

    will it have boxy looking robots that walk like midgets in garbage cans like the movie silent running http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067756/ [imdb.com] did?

  • by User 956 (568564) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:04PM (#20916543) Homepage
    The north pole of the moon is chosen as a location because of its access to sunlight and useful resources.

    Yes, and by "useful resources", they mean moon-elves.
    • Bah. Moon elves-- they take your cheese, work for 28 days, and quit.

      Personally, I think the Once-in-a-Blue-Moon Elves are even more useful. They only switch jobs every 2.72 years. But they are hard to find.
    • You mean Whalers.

      ~/ We're whalers on the moon! We carry a harpoon! /~
  • That, once 1 year on the moon, the human body would have become incapable of sustaining itself on earth ? Or has this little tidbit been conveniently ignored. We could send people there for long times, we are not capable of getting them back.

    Going there, like Laika, is a one way ticket : no way back.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Loke the Dog (1054294)
      Yeah, all those astronauts who stayed on the moon for a year or more, where are they now? Dead, I tell you!

      Muscle and bones can be trained much more easily than on ISS for example, since there is some gravity. Good old weight lifting and running (possibly with weights) will be possible on the moon. Walking and such might need retraining since astronauts might get used to skipping and jumping or whatever, but that's no big deal. So what is it that you think will happen?
      • by jsight (8987)

        Yeah, all those astronauts who stayed on the moon for a year or more, where are they now? Dead, I tell you!


        Actually, they are non-existant. Noone stayed on the moon that long. :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cmowire (254489)
      Ah, but we don't know that for certain.

      We know that coming down to Earth after a year in freefall sucks a big one. But we know nothing about how coming back from the Moon after more than a few days will work.

      Also, having a reasonable sized colony of a few hundred that doesn't need too much more care other than being swapped out every few months so that nobody wastes away too much but doesn't require too much other logistical support is a useful thing.
      • Yes we do, the russians have experimented heavily with this.

        Exercise does not prevent the human body from destroying it's skeleton. It won't work. Furthermore if they aren't infected with the "new" human diseases like on earth their immune system will be dangerously affected.
        • by Frequency Domain (601421) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:00PM (#20917409)
          And just when did the Russians allegedly experiment with this? We've seen what happens with microgravity by having people in orbit for long periods of time. To know what happens in 1/6 G, you have to expose somebody to it for an extended period. We can simulate increased gravity with centrifuges, but the only ways we currently know to simulate decreased gravity are to 1) go where it exists or 2) go to a lesser gravity field and use a centrifuge. Nobody has been exposed to 1/6 G for more than a few days, and until it happens this entire sub-thread is pure conjecture.
    • Valeri Polyakov [wikipedia.org], launched 8 January 1994 (Soyuz TM-18), stayed at Mir LD-4 for 437.7 days, during which he orbited the earth about 7,075 times and traveled 300,765,000 km, (186,887,000 miles) returned March 22, 1995 (Soyuz TM-20). Apparently he is still alive and kicking and his 1+ year spaceflight was spent in zero gravity.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:09PM (#20917509) Journal
      Eh?

      The longest continuous space trip by a crew (with no gravity... none) was 438 days [hypertextbook.com]... that's just over 1.2 years. Another single Cosmonaut managed one day beyond that.

      Sure, the three guys who pulled it off were pretty much stuck in a convalescence home for nearly a year before they could walk again, and had to exercise their asses off every day they were up there, but point is that they did manage.

      With 0.16 G , one would think you could stretch that out a bit to at least a year-and-a-half (perhaps more) before it got as bad as it did for the current record holders, no? This isn't even counting medical remedies and techniques that weren't available in earlier long-duration spaceflight tests.

      /P

  • by faloi (738831) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:10PM (#20916655)
    This news won't result in a resurgence of Pauly Shore movies.
    • Rest assured, if there is a Bubble Pauly Shore is sure to cause trouble in it.

      I'd send him to the moon, him and that Carrot Top, preferably for a loosely defined yet prolonged mission.
    • This news won't result in a resurgence of Pauly Shore movies.
      Thanks to cryogenics, he's the futures problem now!
    • C'mon buuuuuddy! Let's find some hot nugs and weaze some grindage from their kitchens!
  • Cool...I guess (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cleon (471197) <cleon42NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:12PM (#20916683) Homepage
    It's a cool idea, but I still remember being all excited about Biosphere 2 when I was a kid, and it turned out to be a colossal failure.

    I'm glad they've got a design, but are they planning on actually testing it? This is not the sort of thing you just build and hope it works. I mean, at least a working model would be something.
    • by cmowire (254489)
      At least these folks are honest that it's only 90-95% reliant. Were Biosphere 2 to have gone for the 90% case, they would have been a resounding success..

      'cept they wouldn't have sounded nearly so impressive.
    • Re:Cool...I guess (Score:4, Informative)

      by nuzak (959558) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:27PM (#20916917) Journal
      > I still remember being all excited about Biosphere 2 when I was a kid, and it turned out to be a colossal failure.

      A failure as a colony or a failure as an experiment? I'd say they collected plenty of specific data on what went wrong, and by extension, what's wrong with current designs for closed habitats.
       
      • by Cleon (471197)

        A failure as a colony or a failure as an experiment?

        A little from column A, a little from column B. The first mission was an experimental (scientific) failure. The second was a failure in management's inability to get along with each other. :D

        I'd say they collected plenty of specific data on what went wrong, and by extension, what's wrong with current designs for closed habitats.

        That's a fair point, and if I seemed overly dismissive of the Biosphere project, that wasn't my intention. My intent was to point

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Loke the Dog (1054294)
      There is a very big difference here: In Biosphere 2, the plan was to not import ANYTHING. In this case, its just a matter of reducing imports. Biosphere would probably have gone much better if they were allowed to import 100 kg every 6 months or something like that. For this reason, it can't fail like Biosphere 2. If they fail to grow enough food or if they need some other product, the only problem is that earth has to pay for more supplies.

      Besides, building a self sustainable base on the moon IS the test.
      • by Cleon (471197)

        Besides, building a self sustainable base on the moon IS the test. On the moon, supplies can arrive within days.

        That's assuming there's another lunar-bound vehicle that's kept in constant readiness to fly. Otherwise, no, it's not going to take a couple of days--it's going to take several months, at a minimum.

        Of course, even if it was able to get there within a couple of days, that's not going to be much help if there's a catastrophic failure with the air cycling system. :D

    • Re:Cool...I guess (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@nosPam.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @06:57PM (#20918877) Homepage

      It's a cool idea, but I still remember being all excited about Biosphere 2 when I was a kid, and it turned out to be a colossal failure.

      Biosphere II wasn't so much of a failure as it was a 'no test'. Despite the gleaming claims they made about being a closed enviroment, only lip service was paid towards it in the actual design and construction. Far more money was spent on hewing to enviromental mantras and meeting the philosophic/aesthetic goals of the project than on even quasi serious engineering. (CIP: The 'lungs' had to be added, at great cost, fairly late in the construction because it didn't occur to any of the enviromental gurus that a closed building of that size would have significant pressure changes as the temperatures changed.)
       
      Like Sydney Opera House, Biosphere II was designed by an artist - and then the design was handed over to engineers to make work. As a result, much time and money was spent ensuring the 'rainforest' had rain, the 'ocean pool' had tides, and that the high humidity levels required inside by enviromentalists didn't corrode the whole structure into junk.
       
      On top of that - they leapt/extrapolated too far from their mockup and existing engineering. (By a couple of orders of magnitude.) Then they leapt right into the full bore lock-in without doing any significant commissioning and baseline testing.
  • It's Bio-Dome 2!

    Where's Pauly Shore when you need him? The sooner we put him on the moon, the better for movie-goers everywhere.
  • by StCredZero (169093) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:18PM (#20916779)
    I read somewhere that the Russians did experiments with growing plants with 2 weeks of sunlight followed by 2 weeks of relative darkness at low temperature. (Not lunar nighttime temperature, but above freezing.) It seems that there are plants can acclimatize to such conditions. (In particular, peas.) They remain dormant and are able to survive for the 2 weeks when the temperature is lowered less light is available, then continue growing. Using specially tuned LEDs, we could provide the interim power for the 2 weeks "economically." (Relatively speaking. NASA contractors would probably charge million$!)

    Here's some folks in New Zealand doing experiments [asi.org] that simulate lunar agriculture. There are many papers related to lunar agriculture [purdue.edu] as well.
  • by blhack (921171) * on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:18PM (#20916783)
    Why is it that we had our first flight in 1903, 36 years later we exploded our first atomic bomb, 25 yeras after that we had a man in space, and only 8 years after that we had human beings on the moon. In the last 38 years what have we done? Why couldn't we put a man on the moon 9 months from now if we needed to? 30 YEARS to get this base going? If we started developing technology at the rate we were 100 years ago, we should have home based cold fusion reactors in 30 years! We should have near light-speed travel in 30 years! We should have mastered matter/energy conversion in 30 years!!!

    screw this job, i'm going back to school for physics....oh, wait.
    • What have we been doing in the last 38 years? Not a whole lot. But we also have this little bit of trouble here: We have limited resources for science (the main being time. Monetary problems can be sorted out easily if we wanted,) and with the lack of any real space threat in the near-future, our scientists have been busy going off and doing research for things other than space exploration. Sure, we got the Hubble up in the sky, along with the International Space Station, but those were basically creat
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by moore.dustin (942289)
      You limited your scope to manned space exploration/environments for advancement, but used the whole range of past advancements as your example of past progress.

      In fact, you are quite mistaken. In the past 30 years, we have not had any major human engineering feats (for example: Shuttles, satellites, ISS, etc.) compared to the previous decades leading up to the lunar landings. Instead, we have integrated technology and scientific advancements into new space age. Products of this are ever present in our eve
  • by cmowire (254489) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:19PM (#20916799) Homepage
    1) NASA "ought" to be researching stuff like this... because they are going to need it in 20 years or so. But projects like this have been getting de-funded to pay for the Orion capsule (which, I might add, is in trouble -- it's too heavy and they are trying to make it lighter by removing redundancy and capabilities instead of trying to do things like remove a crew member or switching the first stage away from a 5-segment SRB)
    2) This is fairly easy to test on earth. Except for the whole question about how well algae will reproduce in lunar gravity. The ISS was supposed to research these kinds of problems but the module that would have done this research is not going up.
    3) "90-95%" self-sufficient is probably a pointless task to try and do all at once. It's probably far simpler to just add extra sufficiency over time so that you don't get nasty biosphere-two-ish surprises.
    • by scottbell (114847) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:07PM (#20917495) Homepage
      Disclosure: I work at NASA.
      To be fair, we are researching [google.com] self sufficient lunar habitats. I probably see an average of 6 papers a year on the topic at the ICES or COSPAR conferences. The real trick is making a compelling case that regenerative life support saves you ESM (Equivalent System Mass). Everything at NASA is reduced to the mass of the system, and thus how expensive it is to launch. Harry Jones, Alan Drysdale, and other big wig life support analysts aren't convinced complicated regenerative systems, especially crops, will actually make for a cheaper lunar or orbital system. The farther you are away from earth, however, the more sense it makes. One could make the argument that we should test crops on the moon for eventual deployment on Mars, but it would be a very expensive experiment.
  • Gravity well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Reality Master 101 (179095) <`RealityMaster101' `at' `gmail.com'> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:20PM (#20916809) Homepage Journal

    Settling in a gravity well is just stupid. I understand the romance of "living on another world", but just the health difficulties are incredibly hard to solve, along with Lunar nights (I know they want the north pole). The practical difficulties are insane. Will plants grow well in 1/6th gravity? Who knows?

    If you want settle off-planet, the reasonable course is to build a big spinning space station. Yes, the engineering is difficult, but nowhere near the problems of building on the moon, and you can build it closer to earth. You get perpetual, consistent sunlight for power, artificial gravity. You can do zero gravity experiments by setting up labs at the hub, which you can't do on the moon. And doing an emergency escape capsule would be way easier than having to launch off the moon.

    Why NASA is still talking about going to the moon is beyond me. We should be doing missions to near-earth asteroids to see if the materials would be useful for building large space stations, and experimenting with robotically producing I-Beams.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Settling in a gravity well is just stupid... If you want settle off-planet, the reasonable course is to build a big spinning space station.

      It is not stupid, it is a trade-off. Sure it is a gravity well, but a weak one that is not hard to overcome. That is in exchange for access to raw material for building things. Tunneling into the moon or using the material to build structures is a lot more practical than going to the expense of lifting every bit of material needed out of earth's gravity well. The moon is not a perfect site but it seems like a reasonable baby step to me, before we look at building a space station somewhere useful, like the

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        That is in exchange for access to raw material for building things. Tunneling into the moon or using the material to build structures is a lot more practical than going to the expense of lifting every bit of material needed out of earth's gravity well.

        Whatever advantage there is to the raw material is more than overwhelmed by the practical difficulties of dust and the temperature swings, just for starters. The moon is an incredibly harsh environment -- much harsher than space itself.

        The moon is not a

      • These guys, maybe? Ronald J. Anderson, Thomas M. Crabb, John G. Frank, Steven M. Guetschow, Jeffrey T Iverson, Olaf Meding, Robert C. Morrow, E. Don Peissig, Ross W Remiker, Robert C. Richter, David Smith, Jon D. Van Roo, Anton G. Vermaak, and John C. Vignali of Orbital Technologies Corp. for Kennedy Space Center.

        That's microgravity, not low gravity. Different problem, and even if it was similar, we still don't have very much information.

        Or anyone with access to a working clinostat, really.

        Erm, th

    • Re:Gravity well (Score:5, Interesting)

      by david.given (6740) <dg.cowlark@com> on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:22PM (#20917655) Homepage Journal

      Settling in a gravity well is just stupid... If you want settle off-planet, the reasonable course is to build a big spinning space station.

      Actually...

      The moon is a really good place to settle. There is a gravity well; but it's such a small one that you get the convenience without the penalty. It's nice having things fall down; it makes all kinds of useful resources --- rock, ice, metal --- easily accessible, and you don't have to worry about stuff drifting off. Not to mention that all the production techniques we know about involve gravity at some point. It's also nice having such a ludicrously small gravity well that you can get into orbit with something the size of an Apollo lander rather than a Saturn V. It's an excellent compromise.

      It's also really nice being three days travel away from home. In the event of an emergency, it's entirely feasible to sprint home directly from the lunar surface. You can't do that from an asteroid, where you've travelled for months just to get there.

      You're right in that asteroids are excellent places for robotic mining... unfortunately, we don't know how to do that yet. The state of the art just isn't there. Given that we still don't have the technology to travel anywhere in other than a minimum-energy transfer orbit taken months, and that mission planners have to plot crazy momentum-stealing flybys of practically every inner planet in order to minimise delta-V, launching experimental robot refineries from the surface of the Earth just isn't going to happen. Wait another twenty years and build 'em on the Moon instead. You'll have the knowledge, the personnel, the materials, and you won't have to lift them out of Earth's huge gravity well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by apparently (756613)
      The practical difficulties are insane. Will plants grow well in 1/6th gravity? Who knows?

      Will we fall off the Earth if we sail to the edge of the horizon? Who knows?

  • Seeing how the project to build a self-sufficient sealed habitat on Earth ran into some unexpected difficulties [wikipedia.org], I'd strongly suggest postponing lunar habitats until one has been run at least a full year on Earth. After all, if there's some nasty surprises waiting, it's better to find them when safety is a few dozen meters, rather than 400 000 kilometers, away.

    • by dpilot (134227)
      Agreed. Besides, we could drop a few of these on the very worst places on Earth, and they'd most likely (Well, not in an active volcano, the pressure limitations of the ocean bottom, etc.) be a cake-walk compared to the moon.
  • Oxymoron (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Snowgen (586732) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:28PM (#20916927) Homepage
    Isn't "90 to 95 percent self-sufficient" another way of saying "Not self-sufficient"?
  • by N3WBI3 (595976) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:35PM (#20917041) Homepage
    ... is pretty worthless; in 30 years our tech will have, hopefully, seriously evolved. In 30 years the earths political systems and power balance could be totally different. If you cant do it in ten years change your focus to something else. I think this is a great idea but giving something this much time is the ultimate form of procrastination. There is *no* reason they cant have this well in the works in a decade. If the money is not there well then put it on the shelve and come up with something people will pay to research.
  • Biosphere 3 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OglinTatas (710589) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:36PM (#20917057)
    Send Pauly shore up there.

    OK, now the serious part: biosphere 2 probably wouldn't have been the joke that it was on the talk shows if the stated goal of the program was to find out just how sustainable it could be with then state of the art engineering and technology, rather than completely seal it for 2 years and see what happens.

    As it turns out, it wasn't 100% sustainable, and they did have to "cheat" which caused endless laughs. Serious science did come out of it, but who remembers any? One thing I remember that was interesting, and in retrospect should have been obvious, was that then ants they brought aboard for typical ant ecological duties _could_not_be_controlled. Duh. Everywhere but where they were supposed to be, getting into everything but what they were supposed to be doing. (When I was in California this summer, I encountered ants small enough to invade (unsealed) jars of peanut butter with the lids screwed down). Another thing was the inefficiency of their oxygen cycle. I think that was the ultimate reason they popped the hatches.

    They would have been better off had they sealed up, did a progress report every 1 or two months, and replaced/modified any technology or systems that were not performing as well as planned. And brought the orkin man in.

    Even so, I am assuming that these people learned from biosphere 2, and that their 95% sustainability has some basis in fact. But will it be 95% sustainable on the moon? It will be a disaster if you get there, set it up and find out it is only 60% sustainable, and the materials you hoped to mine on the moon are not as easily obtainable as you hoped.

    No doubt any such venture should have a lifeboat in orbit and an ascending vehicle.
    • Re:Biosphere 3 (Score:4, Informative)

      by 4iedBandit (133211) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:21PM (#20917651) Homepage

      One thing I remember that was interesting, and in retrospect should have been obvious, was that then ants they brought aboard for typical ant ecological duties _could_not_be_controlled.

      Actually, the ants which ultimately took over the biosphere were never supposed to be there in the first place. They had carefully selected a couple of ant species however the species which dominated road in on some plants which were not properly quarantined. The "alien" species quickly dominated and destroyed the other two. I actually visited Biosphere 2 while I was living in Arizona. Those little brown ants were all over the place.

      Other good lessons learned:

      • Concrete releases carbon dioxide. Loads of it. Way more than their small environment could convert back to oxygen.
      • The glass in the dome absorbed frequencies of light which many plants need for photosynthesis. Plants didn't grow as well as they originally thought.

      It really was a remarkable place, even if it was treated as a red-headed step child by the media. The primary lesson is that building a closed, self-sustaining environment is a lot more complicated than anyone thinks. All the more reason we should keep trying and keep learning.

  • Oblig. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cthulu_mt (1124113) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @04:36PM (#20917061)

    TANSTAAFL*
  • So in the long term, the inhabitants are only, what, only 5-10% dead then?

    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  • by Chuckstar (799005) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @05:05PM (#20917465)
    "The designers say it could be 20 to 30 years before such a habitat could be up and running on the moon."

    That's perfect timing. That's exactly when fusion reactors should be available to power the thing.
  • Alcatraz II (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DigiShaman (671371) on Tuesday October 09, 2007 @11:32PM (#20921711) Homepage
    The cynic says it will make for the perfect "Alcatraz". I mean, what a great place to send all the worlds most hardened criminals. Should anyone happen to break free, they still have to manage crossing over 238,000 miles of void to get back to Earth.

    Oh, and if something goes wrong and people die; who cares. Just a bunch of murders and rapists that should have died long ago anyways...

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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