Aerospace engineers at MIT have designed a lightweight, packable, inflatable habitat that will include all the creature comforts necessary to avoid certain death on the moon.
The module folds out large enough for two astronauts to comfortably chill out for the night, but packs up to the size of your average refrigerator. Not exactly the smallest thing in the world, but still tight enough to fit in the back of a rover for some all-day lunar exploration.
The shelter would be framed with inflatable tubes made of silicone-coated fabric that has already been tested on the Mars rover missions (specifically in the landing bags). In total, the shelter would include 425 cubic feet of habitable space.
Moon dust, which collects on the astronaut’s suits, poses a problem. The dust is electrostatically charged and sticks to everything, the way a rubbed balloon attracts lint. It is also dangerous, each grain similar to a shard of glass. “On Apollo 17, Harrison Schmitt reported feeling congested and complained of hay fever symptoms from inhaling lunar dust,” Schreiner says. “Lunar dust can also cause skin and eye irritation and corrosion and, when inhaled, can possibly cause lower-airway issues.” So Schreiner and company created a flexible divider inside the pod that can be moved to cordon off the area where astronauts remove their suits from where they sleep. He also believes astronauts could use magnetic wands to pull off dust and use air filters to keep the habitat breathable. “This is still an area of open research that NASA is looking into,” he says, but not part of his project.
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