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Lunar Research Station Design Challenge

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Welcome to the Fall 2006 NASA Quest Challenge!
Design your own lunar research station right here on Earth!

This challenge is brought to you by the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD). In order to prepare for exploration on the Moon and Mars, NASA utilizes sites on Earth to simulate living and working on extra-terrestrial surfaces. Students, primarily in grades 5 – 8, will be challenged to design and build a full- or scale-model of an Earth-based research station that will support living adaptively and working efficiently on the Moon. 

Students should plan on locating their research station in their immediate area (e.g. classroom, schoolyard, nearby community).  Part of the challenge is to identify in what ways the selected location is a good analog (i.e. similar to the lunar environment) and ways that it falls short (i.e. is different from the lunar environment), and how this effects what and how research can be done.

Considerations that need to be addressed with the research station design are:

  • Location
  • Energy and life support
  • Human factors
  • Communications
  • Exploration and EVA activities
  • Research station architecture and materials
  • Contamination protection of explorers and the Moon (e.g. dust, radiation, outgassing detection and control)
  • And anything else you might think of!

Preparing to explore the Moon using sites on Earth (called “analog studies”) is much safer, more accessible, and less expensive.  Plus, it can be a lot of fun!  The knowledge and expertise gathered from analog studies are an important and necessary step towards our future exploration of the Moon and beyond.

Simultaneous to this Challenge, via the NASA ESMD Spaceward Bound program and in partnership with The Mars Society, university students will be conducting research at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah alongside NASA scientists. At MDRS, crews of people live in a confined spacecraft-like environment, conduct scientific research, use robots, perform extra-vehicular activities in mock spacesuits, plan and schedule their work with support from scientists and engineers on Earth, analyze their data and write daily reports to inform Earth support teams of their progress; just like Martian explorers will someday.  As their work is conducted, their actions are recorded and their experience is analyzed, providing useful information to refine crew operations and mission designs.

Challenge participants will be able to follow this research online, discover what makes MDRS an exceptional analog environment, learn what it’s like to live and work in such an environment, and understand the differences between Martian and lunar research station requirements. During the mid-Challenge webchat, students will be able to chat online with crew members.  The final Challenge webcast will be produced and broadcast live from MDRS.

Good luck and thank you for your assistance in the development of lunar analog sites NASA’s Exploration Mission!

(It is anticipated that this design process will not occupy your entire class schedule. This challenge has been stretched out to allow for maximum participation.)

Prepare for the Challenge with some background reading to learn more about the Moon.
Instructors see Teachers' Page.


September 2006 -

Questions? See our frequently asked questions page.

October 2006

Preparation Helps: All about the Moon
Get to know your Experts (Growing list -- keep checking back)
Teachers' Page
Background reading

Ask your questions to the MDRS participants -- answers are being posted online @
See the growing list of helpful answers

October 23
10:00 a.m. Pacific (GM minus 7)

One-hour chat with MDRS participants. Join the chat live or post your questions before the date and time. We will archive the chat and you can return to see your answers after the event.

October 30 Submitted Preliminary Designs are being posted here!
More to come!
October 31 - November 13 Experts review and give feedback on designs.
November 30 Final designs due. Helpful hints for sending in your designs.
Final designs are being posted here.

December 12 @ 9:00a.m. Pacific
(GM minus 8)

Watch the archive of the webcast!


 FirstGov  NASA

NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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