A new inflatable moon habitat design could house up to 32 astronauts
Austrian company PneumoCell developed an inflatable habitat concept that could fly to the moon with NASA Artemis astronauts.
The habitat, called PneumoPlanet, could house up to 32 astronauts and contain 16 greenhouses that would allow them to grow food in the harsh lunar environment.
New habitat design could provide permanent lunar residence
NASA recently named its potential landing sites near the moon's south pole for its upcoming crewed Artemis III mission. The U.S., Russia, and China all have their eye set on the lunar south pole due to the fact that it's an ideal location for mining ice that would be used for water and oxygen.
PneumoCell received funding from the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop its ultra-light inflatable structure. Once erected, the PneumoPlanet habitat is covered in lunar regolith for protection from radiation. The habitat recycles oxygen and food using solar power, as per a report from Space.com.
The company claims its habitat can serve as a permanent outpost, meaning it could help NASA to establish a permanent presence on the moon — one of the key goals of its Artemis program. It also suggests the habitat should be built near a "permanently shadowed region" (PSR), a type of crater near one of the lunar poles in constant darkness, meaning it may harbor large amounts of ice for mining.
Novel mirror technology for lunar habitats
PneumoCell says their habitat uses a novel mirror technology that reflects visible sunlight in an optimal wavelength range into a greenhouse without reflecting harmful radiation. This allows the greenhouse to act as a natural food source and a living space for the crew, providing them with a small slice of home on the moon.
In a presentation shared on YouTube (viewable below), lead designer and CEO Thomas Herzig explains how PneumoPlanet's mirrors will be suspended using carbon fiber tubes attached to a rotating magnetic mechanism that tracks sunlight. The company has outlined how PneumoPlanet works in a new paper in the journal Planetary and Space Science.
The mirror technology will allow natural sunlight to enter through a transparent foil, providing 65 kilowatts of energy, or 265 watts per square meter. PneumoCell says this is an ideal amount for enabling photosynthesis and the growth of food for the crew.
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