In the coming decades many space agencies plan to send astronauts to the moon's surface. In addition, between the European Space Agency (ESA), the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) and Roscommos, there are many plans to build permanent moon voices. Perhaps the most famous of them is the ESA's plan to build an International Village on the Moon,
As a spiritual heir to the International Space Station (ISS), this village will serve as a base for astronaut teams to conduct vital research and experiments. In recent years, some very interesting suggestions have been presented as part of this plan, the latest being the ESA European Astronautics Center (EAC), where a student team has developed a proposal for a sustainable moon habitat.
The team leader is Angelus Chrysovalantis Alfatzis, an architecture student in his last year at the National Technical University of Athens, Greece. He and his colleagues are only part of the many young researchers participating in Spaceship EAC – an initiative of ESA to promote networking and collaboration with universities and research institutions across Europe.
Alfatzis and his colleagues developed their concept of the 2018 Moon Base in NewSpace2060 International Moon Pitch Competition, a joint initiative with Moon Village Association, which was held in the autumn of 2018. Their participation was part of the lunar architectural concept and category edition where participants were encouraged to come up with ideas that would work with existing technology and knowledge of the moon.
Alfatzis describes his architectural approach as "hyperlocal", which uses the concept of site resource use (ISRU) to create sustainable lifecycles for extreme environments in remote locations. As he explained his vision in the recent ESA press release:
"I always strive to find tangible and structural solutions in line with available resources on the ground. At the moment, my focus is on the use of untreated moon soil for construction and architectural applications of this. "
This emphasis is in line with the objectives of ESA to create an International Village of the Moon, which requires the use of local resources not only for the production of the base but also for the needs of its crew. Working together with others in the Spaceship EAC initiative, Alfatzis and his teammates invented a concept called CORE (Crater Outpost for Research and Research).
The CORE concept requires a modular design that uses its own geography and regolith of the moon to protect itself from the elements. The team chose the South Pole-Aitken Basin as a place on its base, which offers the advantages of stable lighting, easy communications with the Earth and proximity to water ice.
Each module will consist of an inflatable, prefabricated structure with its own life support system and a central tube. In this way, the modules can be positioned vertically, one on top of the other, while allowing transportation between them. As Alfatsis explained:
"Our idea is to transport inflatable modules to the base of a small crater in the Southern Polar Area of the Moon and then gradually fill the cavity with moon soil until the modules are effectively buried. The shielding meters will protect from radiation. The building inside the crater will also help isolate it due to the stable temperature of the underground environment of the Moon and provide coverage from the threat of micrometheroids.
The plan also requires an airbag module to be added at the top of the structure, which is then covered with more reground to provide protection. Inside this air cushion will be kept extra equipment (EVA), and the lunar dust will be softened by an electromagnetic cleaning device that will take advantage of the magnetic properties of regolith to collect it.
All vertically stacked modules will be connected through a centrally located elevator. The first module to the surface will house the waste treatment facilities and will be where astronauts prepare for EVA and surface missions. The middle module will be for research and communications, while the bottom module will contain bed pods, living quarters and a training facility (aka "lunar gym").
As Alfatzis notes in the video that is part of their team's entry, another advantage of CORE design is the ability to expand it to neighboring craters. "The chosen location allows further installation of modules to be delivered and created, creating a real settlement of habitats in nearby homes," he said. "Realizing the village of the moon is an important step for sustainable people to study."
Ultimately, CORE's main goal is to create a habitat that supports human life by protecting its inhabitants from external conditions that might otherwise pose a threat. In this sense, this is no different from the habitats built here on the Earth, except that special considerations must be taken into account when designing the moon habitats.
These include the lack of a breathing atmosphere, extreme temperatures, the type of terrain and the low gravity of the Moon, which is about 16.5% of Earth's. The absence of a protective magnetic field also means that each lunar base will also have to be able to protect its inhabitants from solar and cosmic radiation, not to mention small meteorites that regularly float on the surface.
For their concept, Alfatzis and the EAC team of the spacecraft were awarded second place. As Alfatzis pointed out, their success was due to the diverse talents their team brought to the table:
"The multidisciplinary nature of our team – from aerospace engineers to biologists – has helped us look at all the different details of building and energy requirements. The whole experience has led us to think more deeply about the different aspects of lunar construction and dwelling, showing us many different possibilities for our future on the Moon. "
Currently, ESA, CNSA, Roscosmos and NASA are hoping to build a lunar post by the end of the 2020s or early 20s. It is likely that this base will be the result of cooperation between these and other agencies, all of which will benefit from the existence of a permanent research base that will help facilitate future missions to Mars and other locations in the solar system.
Additional reading: ESA