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Lunar Research Station Design Challenge
Nikki & Brent
Location – Malapert Mountain
Our class decided to pick a location that would have lots of sunlight, have the ice caps nearby, and a place that has constant temperature. So we picked Malapert Mountain! Malapert Mountain is on the sunny side of the moon so it has sunlight 90 percent of the time there and illumination 97% of the time. Since there is sunlight for that long during the day we can use solar power for our lights and then at night we can use batteries for lights and energy. The polar ice caps in Shackleton Crater are only 100 kilometers away from the Malapert Mountain. Since we are so close to the ice caps we can use a rover, train cart, solar heater and pipes to get the ice back to the base. The Moon has a temperature range of –243oF to 224oF. However the temperature at the Malapert Mountains is much more constant without the extreme cold. Since the temperature is constant we won’t need to be changing our bases internal temperature as much.
Other places considered
Research Station architecture
When we go to the moon we will locate our mountain at the base of Malapert Mountain. The ground temperature here is about 35oF. We are going to blow a hole into the side of the base of the mountain with dynamite and build our base underground in the hole with the part of the base that is sticking out covered with regolith (moon dirt). The regolith will provide a shield to protect us from UV radiation, insulate the base temperature and help protect against small meteorites. To move the regolith to finish the hole and to cover the research station we will need a backhoe. The backhoe will be powered by RTG (see Energy). Our base will have no windows because of UV radiation and heat.
Our materials will all be UV radiation resistant and we will have no metal because of heat. We will make our building materials from regolith. Regolith is made mostly of silicon dioxide with a blend of oxides of 12 metals. The regolith can be melted and reformed to make a smooth hard substance. The regolith will be heated to a high temperature in a solar furnace built from foil and mirrors to concentrate the sun rays (about 1100oC). Then the heated regolith will be cast into bricks to be used in building the Research Station. The exterior walls will be 2 feet thick.
As the space station is expanded another way to protect from UV radiation would be to make a plasma shield over the research station complex. An warning system to detect meteors could also be installed so that people had time to get into safe shelters.
Interior of Research Station
Each room will have a plant or tree in it to help with oxygen a little. We will have a sleeping room, kitchen, work/living area, bathroom, changing room/entrance, and a greenhouse. There will be an air filtration system to remove dust particles and other airborne material.
The greenhouse will have artificial variable day/night lights and misters. The lights would need to have low energy necessary to power them with maximum output. One kind of light would be mercury vapor lights. It will have a system to recapture humidity and condensation for water (see Water). It will be 12 feet by 18 feet which was determined using the fact that research has shown that there must be 40 m2 of planted area in order to provide enough oxygen, food, and water for 6 people. This area would need to be planted with 2118 plants with 30 leaves to make enough oxygen. The plants would need to be selected to be disease resistance and be able to produce in medium light.
The kitchen will have a two burner stove, sink and a microwave oven. There will be a 4 foot by 3 foot table that expands to 6 feet by 3 feet for seating for 6. There will be 6 chairs that are used both at this table and at the workstations. This area will also hold 6 desks so that each person may have private working space. The station will have 3 laptop computers, microscope and other research equipment and communication devices for both space to moon and moon to exploration purposes. This area will be where exercise, communication, research and entertainment happen.
Exercise will be on an ergonomic bike exercise machine or using resistance rubber bands. Entertainment will be from board games, cards, ipods, and DVD movies played on the computer. This room will be 7 feet by 29 feet.
There will be a refrigerator that is basically an ice box. It will be a container that perishable food may be placed in and a chunk of polar ice that is brought back from the crater will be placed in one section to cool the entire box. The refrigerator will not be part of the heated lunar station so as to keep the food cool. It will be 2 feet by 3 feet.
The sleeping room will have three bunk hammocks (one hammock hung over the other) that are 6 feet in length and 2-3 feet in width. When no one is sleeping the hammocks will collapse against the wall to provide more walking room. There will also be six cabinets that go to the ceiling. They will be 3 feet in length and 2 feet in width. The overall dimensions of the room will be 5 feet by 21 feet.
In the bathroom there will be two private toilets, a shower, and a device that takes the dirty water and urine and cleans it to use again (see Recycling – Water and Solid Waste). Hands will be cleaned with antibiotic lotion. The bathroom will be 5 feet by 7 feet.
The changing room/entrance will have six space suits in a cabinet and have three more extra ones in a built-in chest. The chest will also be a seat to help with dressing. This room is 4 feet by 6 feet.
The door to get in and out of the base will have one door than a little room then another door to the inside. In this way the entrance can be pressurized and oxygenated and only a small amount of oxygen will be lost when the researcher exits the station as versus an unlimited flow of oxygen escaping out of the station. There will be suction on the bottom of the doors for an airlock seal.
This double door system will also keep the regolith (moon dirt) from coming into the lunar station and getting into the equipment. The doors will be cleaned regularly to ensure a good seal. There will also be a system to help keep the regolith away from the door seals. It will have fans on the outside door that are blowing waste gases out to push away regolith.
This entrance will be 4 feet by 4 feet. The doorway is larger because men in space suits will be larger and there needs to be enough space so that the suits do not get damaged.
Energy and Life Support
Our Lunar Research Station will use solar power with backup rechargeable fuel cells. Collection panels will be put on side of the mountain. Collection panels will be made by using melted regolith as a base with solar collectors embedded on top. In case the solar panels fail, we will use backup power batteries and RTG batteries.
Our Lunar Research Station will get its oxygen at first from a machine that uses electrolysis to separate the water into hydrogen and oxygen gas. (The current machine on the Space Station supports six crew members). Our second source of oxygen will come from plants grown in the space station. It will take 350 plants (30 leaves each) to support 1 human. A future source of oxygen may come from heating oxygen- rich moon rocks (ilumenite). Extra oxygen can be stored cryogenically.
Our initial source of water will be water transported from Earth. Hopefully there will be polar ice near our location for a primary water source. A second source of water will be recycled water from the research station. (See Recycling)
A rover will move ice from polar ice caps in the bottom of the polar craters into solar powered carts that will run on train tracks to our research station. Once they arrive at the research station, ice will be collected in a mirrored holding tank. The sun will reflect off the mirrors, create heat, and melt the ice. The water will be purified and used in the space research station.
Sources of food include food brought from earth and food grown in the research station.
Food that cannot be grown on station that has long storage life and takes up little space. Dehydrated food takes up less space and doesn't spoil.
The Space Research Station will be air tight and sealed. Fans will move the air around. Charcoal filters will remove poisonous gases from the air and vent to the outside (see air lock doors). Plants will use CO2 for photosynthesis and make oxygen.
Water will be recycled from 3 sources; potable water, urine, and condensation. Water purification machines will recycle potable water. Urine will be purified and used by the oxygen electrolysis machines. Condensation will be collected and purified in the space station.
Water obtained from melting ice from the polar caps will be also purified.
All products brought to space research station will try to be package in recyclable materials. When this is not possible, these products will be collected and sent back to earth on future transports.
Exploration and EVA Activities
Rover 1 will have big, large wheels and be used for research expeditions. It will have a big seat to allow for the size of the space suits and have a big platform behind the seats for transporting large objects such as rocks. It will be driven like a car.
Rover 2 will be robotic. It will be powered by RTG (Radioisotope thermoelectric generators). It will be used to load ice into solar powered train carts to transport ice from polar ice caps to the research station.
We will use 2-way radios (radio waves) to communicate from base to rovers and researchers on the surface.
To communicate with Earth, microwave radio waves will be used. A lunar satellite will probably be needed.
Space suits will be pressurized and have UV protection. Life support systems will built in and will include air and water. The space suits will have gravity boots. The space suits will have a personal radiation monitoring device in them to protect against too much exposure to UV radiation.
We constructed our model on a scale of .5 inch = 1 foot. All the furniture was hand –built from wood. The actual furniture would probably be made from lighter weight synthetic materials such as is used on the earth. The hammocks will be made with a synthetic/ cotton blend for longer durability and comfort. Lego’s were used for the outer wall. The Legos simulate the thicker walls constructed of regolith bricks that will be used in the actual space station. Thinner walls will be used in the interior construction where UV radiation and physical protection is not an issue. The sides and back of our structure will be buried in the mountain and not need the regolith brick walls of that thickness.
We built our environment (base of Malapert Mountain) from soil topped with sand to simulate the mountain as well as the regolith dirt.
We think there are 2 good analog environments on Earth to test our lunar base design. The first is McMurdo Station in Antarctica. This is the furthest southern rocky point and there is already a research station located there. Equipment could be tested there in a cold environment to see if it will withstand the extremes of cold temperature at Malapert Mountain. The second location would be the Sahara Desert in Africa where the equipment could be tested in a dusty, dry and hot environment. This location would be very beneficial in testing our airlock door cleaning device.
Additional testing could be done on the ISS.
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NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
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