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Lunar Research Station Design Challenge
The most important thing to set up an outpost on the moon is oxygen to breath and for fuel for rockets. Oxygen exists on the moon in plenty. It is abundantly present in moon rocks and soil. The common methods of extraction of oxygen from the surface of the moon are:
2.By separating oxygen from the soil by decomposing the oxygen compounds present in it.
3.By treating Ilmenite with Hydrogen.
In the first process, moon soil is heated to a temperature of about 2000 degrees centigrade in vacuum. It does not need any raw materials to be brought from Earth but certainly needs extreme temperature and a hard vacuum. On the moon, it is not a tough task creating these conditions but only 20% of the raw material is converted into free oxygen while the rest forms slag. This may be used as a construction material as it is rich in metal ores.
In the next process, the oxygen compounds available in the soil such as oxides are decomposed either by strong heating or passing electric discharges.
In this process, Ilmenite, a common lunar mineral, is heated with Hydrogen gas to produce iron, water and titanium dioxide.
The water formed in the above process can be electrolyzed further to produce oxygen. But this process needs lot of equipment. The process starts with regolith-handling robots bringing raw moon dust to the pilot plant. Once the process is going, the hydrogen obtained from electrolysis of water can be recycled and used for the next load of ilmenite. But to get it started with an initial supply of hydrogen, the raw regolith is heated to about 600 degrees C. That will drive off hydrogen that is used to reduce the first load of lunar soil.
Lunar Oxygen Pilot Plant
The robot dumps the moon soil into a hopper, which filters the dust into the first reaction chamber. Here we use simple solar reflectors to heat the vessel and drive off the volatile gasses. Heating the vessel provides the gas pressure we need to move the gasses to the separation unit, which pumps hydrogen into the hydrogen tank and the rest of the gasses into the next industrial process down the line.
The regolith and hydrogen are introduced into another chamber where more solar heating is used to raise the temperature above 900 deg C, where the hydrogen will reduce ilmenite into iron and rutile. Gaseous water vapor is pumped on to the electrolysis vessel. If we raise the temperature above 1,525 deg C, the iron will melt and separate out from the solids, leaving the rutile behind. The rutile will decompose at 1,640 deg C before it melts.
Electrolysis is simply the process of applying electricity to water to cause it to separate into oxygen and hydrogen. We use photovoltaic solar cells to generate the electricity. Each of these gasses will collect at an opposite pole of the electrolysis apparatus. From there the hydrogen is pumped into the hydrogen storage tank, where in joins other hydrogen extract directly from the regolith in the initial heating process. The oxygen is pumped into a storage tank where it is condensed into liquid form for use as rocket propellant or introduced into the lunar settlement's life support system.
It is known that large cold spots or deposits of ice exist near the Poles of the moon. If that is true, we may dig up some of the ice available and simply melt it. But as the supply of water is limited it has to be used properly and the wastes may be recycled into pure water.
On the earth, wastewater is recycled by:
1.Passing it through layers of sand.
2.Growing algae in ponds.
3.By absorbing it in wetlands or greenhouses..
In this process, wastewater is passed through different layers of soil where the sewage particles and dirt are left behind and water free from solid impurities is obtained. Microorganisms consume the leftover.
In the next process, water is treated by a series of ponds teaming with algae and organisms and fueled by sunlight. After 20 days, water is safe for reuse and feeds the fish ponds where phytoplankton gobble up remaining nutrients. Fish are harvested for human consumption and the sludge from the treatment ponds is used as a fertilizer on agricultural fields.
The first phase of construction begins with the creation of cinder block planter boxes for the greenhouse. The cinder block construction here defines the two rows of planter boxes that will eventually become part of the greenhouse. With the roof and framing for the wall of the greenhouse complete (right top) , construction of cell 1 begins. Plastic lines the bottom of the constructed wetland. The V-shaped soil filters, which sit on top of the constructed wetland, are framed. The constructed wetland of cell 1 has been partially filled with gravel and soil. Framing for the soil filters continues.The soil filters on top of the constructed wetland of cell 1 have been filled with sand, gravel, and brick. Work on the constructed wetland of cell 2 (back right) continues.Cell 1 and cell 2 await more fill and a spring planting. The soil filters on top of the constructed wetland of cell 1 are given a final layer of crushed brick.Cell 2 (front) is being filled with additional sand, and cell 1 (back) is given a top layer of crushed brick. The greenhouse planter boxes are lined with plastic to prevent water from leaching into the ground. The planter boxes are full of sand and the windows have been installed in the greenhouse. The constructed wetland and three soil filters (raised framed sections front center) of cell 1 are complete and filled with gravel, sand, and crushed brick. Cell 2 (back) is also ready for planting. The 2000-gallon septic tank and the four pump tanks, which pump water of varying types to the constructed wetlands, the greenhouse, the landscape features and the toilets, are ready for operation. The control boxes, which monitor and regulate water flowing from the septic tanks to the constructed ecosystem, have been installed.
The water so obtained is generally used to feed fish, flush toilets and wash vehicles.
Similar methods can be applied on the moon.
A greenhouse can be constructed to grow plants that yield food and also act as a source of oxygen. We might generally prefer to have a variety of foods. So we must choose crops that do not require special conditions to grow and at the same time give maximum and affordable yield. Health is not to be compromised.
Plants need nitrogen (at least in the form of nitrates and ammonium) to produce amino acids and other compounds. Initial sources of nitrogen may be available as by-products from the breakdown of some of the fuel components used to move spacecraft to the moon, such as nitrogen tetroxide N2O4(a highly toxic oxidizer which obviously needs to be modified) and hydrazine N2H4(a highly toxic fuel source). Plants also need nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil to convert the nitrogen into essential compounds.
We decided to build our outpost at 73 km wide Peary Crater near the Moon’s North Pole, it is believed that it constantly illuminates.
The advantage of the site is that : the moon unlike Earth spins nearly vertically with respect to the plane of its orbit around the sun and so the poles never experience a sunset – the sun just skims around the horizon as the moon rotates. This constant light should provide temperatures of about –500 C and a steady source of energy.
We possibly cannot transport raw materials from the earth. So we may use the things available there. The slag produced from Pyrolysis can be used as a construction material as it is mainly a glassy and hard material.
The outpost should be a dome shaped structure that can hold earth-like atmosphere in it. For this, we need to create high pressure, dust and radiation resistant atmosphere and high oxygen content. In order to create such an atmosphere, we need to have machines that can create these conditions. In such a case, the problem will be getting in and coming out without moving the moon’s atmosphere into it or the earth-like atmosphere out of it. For this, we may have a few chambers in which the moon’s cold dusty atmosphere gradually changes to the pleasant earth one. The gravity of the moon is also a hard thing to tackle. Otherwise the people may float inside the outpost too. So the outpost floor must have high gravity. To protect the people from tremors, the outpost floor may be made to move or rather vibrate along with the moon’s surface that is, a suspension floor.
The most abundant source of energy in outer space is the sun. So solar energy can be used for the various requirements of the people living in the outpost. The energy can be absorbed by fitting solar panels on or near the living colony. The energy so received can be converted into Electricity . The converted Electricity is supplied to Living space as well as to water plant to extract water crystals from ice-caps..
Since our outpost is situated near the pole nuclear power can be the best source incase any problem arises with solar energy.
(To produce nuclear power nuclear reactors can be transported from earth to moon.)
The movement within the outpost would be pretty much like that on the earth but outside it, that is, on the surface of the moon movement can be controlled by extra heavy suits to counter balance the utter lack of gravity. Vehicles that suit to help people travel even on the moon’s surface can be developed.
During ascent and entry, each crewmember wears special equipment consisting of a partial pressure suit, a parachute harness assembly, and a parachute pack. The Suit consists of helmet, communication assembly, torso, gloves and boots, provides counter pressure and anti exposure functions in an emergency situation in which the crew must parachute from the orbiter.
Bio-suit systems( low mass space suits:)
Bio-Suit system can be also used because these suits incorporates a suit designed to augment a person’s biological skin by providing mechanical counter pressure. The “epidermis” of such a second skin could be applied in spray-on fashion in the form of an organic, biodegradable layer.
This coating protects an astronaut conducting a spacewalk in extremely dusty planetary environments. The second skin incorporated into it will electrically actuate artificial muscle fibres to enhance human strength and stamina.
The Bio-suit system can also embody communications equipment, bio-sensors, computers, even climbing gear for spacewalks (i.e., Extra Vehicular Activities)
Special tools called electronic catapults can do transportation of materials from earth to moon. They launch the heavy material to be transported as a catapult does small objects.
This is a major problem as sound does not travel through vacuum and the moon is full of it. So radio waves can be used instead of sound waves. Communication from earth to moon and moon to earth can be done through satellites whereas that on the moon can be carried on through walkie-talkies or radio kits which works on the moon.
Slag, the product obtained in pyrolysis can be used as a layer to coat the surface of outpost as it helps in absorption of radiation. A layer of water can also serve the purpose but it is hard to keep it from floating away. Moreover it is hard to find water on the moon’s surface. Spacecraft designers may also use a ship's own cryogenic fluids as a radiation screen by arranging the cargo tanks containing them around crew compartments. An electrically charged outpost may also be used.
One way of obtaining fuel is from biomasses. This can also be done from tree trunks and shoots. For this a plant that converts wastes into fuel for the spacecraft by anaerobic bacterial respiration or using chemicals should be developed.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DESIGN:
The Living space has been built half above the ground and half below the ground so that Entry , Emergency Exit and Exit are facilitated . further it is also easy to supply electricity, waterand oxygen.
Entry Point:we have installed Magnetic Brush where they can clean the dust and enter into the vacuum cleaning system which clears the complete moon dust which astronauts carry from here an entry is given to walk –in to the living space.
Two bathrooms have been provided besides these two rooms through them an entry is given to main living space
Oxygen Plant:It will have its storage as well as supply base along with oxygen plant. Oxygen is supplied to the Living Space. The waste material (Slag) that is generated in the process is collected in a container for construction use.
Solar Power Plant:The absorbed Solar power is converted into Electricity and will be stored in a container through which it will be supplied to Living quarters and to water plant to extract ice crystals to make water.
Water Plant:This is the place where water is stored and distributed to Living space.
Robots: Robots are used to bring ice caps to the place where water purifying plant is erected.
Moon Buggy:This will be used to move on the surface to go to the different places on the moon.
Hangers: This will be used to keep all the vehicles inside ex: Moon Buggy
NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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