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Lunar Research Station Design Challenge

Final Design
R.C. Murphy Lunar Space Project

artists version of moon base

Layout on the moon -- looks like solar panels & plumbing?

By the Murphy Science Research 9 Classes

The Peary Crater is the closest large crater to the Lunar North Pole (88.6° N 33.0° E) that is around 73 km wide. From the Earth the crater appears on the northern lunar limb, and is seen from the side. The crater is nearly circular, with an outward bulge along the northeast rim. It is now determined that four mountainous regions on the rim of Peary crater appeared to remain illuminated for the entire Lunar day. These unnamed "mountains of eternal light" are possible due to the Moon's extremely small axial tilt, which also gives rise to permanent shadow at the bottoms of many polar craters.

As a result, the northern rim of the Peary crater is considered a likely site for a future moon base due to this steady illumination, which would provide both a relatively stable temperature and an uninterrupted solar power supply. It is also near permanently shadowed areas that may contain some quantity of frozen water (covered later).

Energy and Life Support

The first part is dealing with crop systems and a source of comestibles. By using a combination of artificial light, in the form LED lights (light emitting diodes) that are relatively effective and doesn’t use a lot of energy (however it would have to be special LED light that only produces light which can be used by plants in photosynthesis). In addition this would be augmented by natural solar insolation found at the Peary Crater.

Greenhouse design consists of fans would be installed to keep air moving, so that plants can have carbon dioxide. Mirrors could be used for light. Loam would be the soil. Regolith soil could be used, but it would have to be enhanced with nutrients. Soil particles are 1-2 millimeters in size because there is no gravity so water is more evenly distributed. This particle size helps plants get water and air.

Ideal plants/crops to grow: have to have high yield, few inedible parts, resistant to disease include: Soybeans, Sweet Potato, Carrots, Tomatoes, Peppers, Lettuce, Parsley, Rice, Grapes, Broccoli, etc. The diet is generally health containing low fat and cholesterol but on the other hand it lacks protein and minerals such as Iron. These would have to be dealt with in supplements, and proteins and oils found in beans and serve as a replacement for meats.

In addition, the greenhouse facility also serves as a waste management center. Feces would be put into a bioreactor, turning into fertilizer which could be used for plants. In addition, plants produce oxygen and we produce carbon dioxide. A man needs .63 kg of oxygen a day. A plant used about 50 g of carbon dioxide; a human produces about 1000 g of carbon dioxide. The process of transpiration can clean water as shown in the diagram below.

Human Factors
On the lunar base we will have several plans for utilizing the resources on the moon to create: water, hydrogen fuel for further use, oxygen, hydrogen fuel and raw materials for construction and other purposes.

The first plan is the method of obtaining water, oxygen, and hydrogen fuel from the lunar crust. The moon is covered in a substance called ilmenite, which is composed of FeTiO3. To obtain the necessary resources from this substance, we will break it down in a system of decomposition reactions:

  1. Heat the ilmenite to remove excess H2 and He
  2. Use solar energy and hydrogen end products from part one to produce iron, rutile and water from ilmenite by heating the lunar regolith to approximately 900 degrees Celsius.
  3. The rutile and iron can be used for raw materials. The water can be used as it is or can be separated by electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen. However this will require a decent amount of electricity.

The second method is the safe approach of bringing water will take effect in the simple process of shipping water from the earth. The drawback with this plan is that it is very expensive and somewhat inefficient to bring water from earth. It may take weeks for water to be shipped to and from the moon and it costs approximately $10,000 per kg of water sent. However, the benefit is that water can be recycled (as shown above and in diagram below) in various process. A portion of the water shipped can be used to produce oxygen and hydrogen fuel.

diagram of water recovery system


Lastly Water Recovery Production can be accomplished in several ways such naturally occurring as ice in craters (doubtful and risky to depend on it), Chemical removal from regolith, and importation from earth at high costs (as said before).

However “Waste water sources” which include humidity condensate, urine, and hygiene waters which can be reclaimed by “condensing heat exchangers” which control cabin humidity levels. The moisture in the air can lightly “contaminated” with ammonia or other water soluble organics such as carboxylic acids and alcohols which are present at low concentration in the air in air to help regulate conditions.

 Multifiltration system is a process that’s been tested by both Russian and American astronauts. Multifiltration (MF) is the removal of dissolved contaminants by using an upstream filter followed by a system of absorbent materials that are designed to remove specific chemicals in the waste water. Particulate material is removed by filtration, and dissolved salts and organics are removed by various ion exchange resins.  Chemicals with low molecular weight such as alcohols and urine which are not effectively removed by sorption are destroyed by a catalytic oxidation post-treatment, in which oxygen, heat, and pressure chemically alter these substances and convert them into CO2, H2O and more oxygen

Lastly Iodine is used to disinfect water because it is a biocide helps regulate water and bacterial colonies in small amounts. The MCV or Microbial Check Valve can be used to filter water for microbes through an Iodine resin. Regenerative Iodine solutions can be stored and used to replenish iodine levels in the filter when necessary.


Many technologies that help us generate the energy we need but Solar Energy is by far the best. Other forms of energy are too expensive or simply do not have the right conditions on the lunar surface.

Solar heating systems are a possibility of insolation-heated hot water systems use sunlight to heat water. These systems may be used to heat hot water or any other liquid for space heating. These systems are basically composed of solar thermal collectors and a storage tank.

Photovoltaics Solar cells, also referred to as photovoltaic cells, are the most probable source of energy. These devices use the photovoltaic effect of semiconductors to generate electricity directly from received insolation. Their use may be pioneered on the moon due to the abundance of many materials there. They can also be used in powering orbiting satellites (communications) and other spacecraft.

Energy storage will be necessary as the surplus electricity will eventually be used elsewhere, so some means must be employed to store the collected energy for use during hours of darkness on the lunar surfaces (but again Peary Crater has relatively few problems). The following list includes both mature and immature techniques (Bold indicates types I believe are possible and probably the best):

  1. Electrochemically in batteries
  2. Cryogenic liquid air or nitrogen
  3. Compressed air in a cylinder (double for emergency oxygen)
  4. Flywheel energy storage
  5. Hydrogen produced by electrolysis of water and then available for pollution free combustion
  6. Hydraulic accumulator
  7. Pumped-storage hydroelectricity
  8. Molten salt
  9. Superconducting magnetic energy storages

The others will serve as back up storage systems that can be easily implemented (most work better on the Earth than the Moon though).

Exploration and EVA activities:

A lunar base would provide an excellent site for any kind of observatory for deep space exploration. As the Moon's rotation is so slow, visible light observatories could perform observations for days at a time. The lack of an atmosphere doesn’t obstruct the view of the heavens, unlike the earth. An infrared instrument would benefit from the very cold temperatures and a radio telescope would benefit from being shielded from Earth's broad spectrum radio interference.A futuristic design of lunar craft.A futuristic design of lunar craft.

Lunar colonists will want the ability to move over long distances, to transport cargo and people to and from modules and spacecraft, and to be able to carry out scientific study of a larger area of the lunar surface for long periods of time. Rovers could be useful if the terrain is not too steep or hilly. A design has been created for a manned pressurized rover for a crew of two; with an effective range would be 396 km (which greatly aids EVA activity.

The round trip communication delay to Earth is only a few seconds, allowing normal voice and video conversation between the Earth and Moon. This would be of great importance in an early colony, where life-threatening problems requiring Earth's assistance could occur.

An experiment done in the mid 1900s at the U.S. Naval Research Lab helped test a “Passive Moon Relay System.” The Naval Research Lab helped demonstrate the moon’s ability to transmit data in a coherent and predictable manner. Today we could easily implement something similar in a “passive circuit” with radio communication and satellite system on the moon.

Transporting Materials:
Getting materials to the moon will be a difficult process. Even before we start going on construction lunar base design, we have to ship up those building materials to the moon. We propose we use the Ares V rocket design, which is slated for development of a new space shuttle in 2010. Basic Information:

Length: 107 m (358 feet)

Gross lift off weight: 3350 t (7.4 million lbs.)

Payload Capacity: 130 t (287,000 lb.) to Low earth orbit; (after docking with the separately launched CEV,crew exploration vehicle aka Orion, the EDS, Earth Departure Stage, that will be launched by Ares V will be able to propel 65 t (143,000 lb.) to the Moon).

Ares V Cargo Launch Vehicle

 FirstGov  NASA

NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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