A Partial list of Logical Lunar Analog Research Directions

Peter Kokh 10/31/2009


The following report does not reflect the assets or liabilities of any particular site.

Which Research Directions are pursued in which time sequence will depend on availability of staff and facilities and support from participating institutions and corporations, etc. as well as funding for the expansion and operations expenses involved.

Our Design Philosophy and the Research Opportunities that flow from it:

Modular and Shielded – Year around operations
Our design philosophy is of a soil-covered “shielded” modular station, connected by enclosed walkways linked to a central Command and Communications hub. The site chosen should be one that allows this initial complex to grow in modular fashion as additional new research directions are pursued.

This “shielding,” while necessary on the Moon (and Mars) to protect from the cosmic elements (cosmic rays, solar flares, micrometeorites), also protects the outpost from thermal extremes.

While only this last benefit will be relevant for our analog stations here on Earth, it will serve to even out seasonal temperature highs and lows and thus allow year-around occupation. That in turn will allow significant biological life-support experimentation and greenhouse agriculture to supply fresh vegetables and fruit to the crews.

Adopting a modular approach suggests that some experimentation with modular architectural languages and construction methodologies is itself a research direction.

In turn, an expansion-friendly modular architectural plan provides the opportunity to model biological life support systems on a modular plan. Every hab or lab module, even every connector could include living biomass so that as the physical complex grows, so does the life-supporting biosphere. In pursuit of thus line of research, a plurality of toilets offers the opportunity to experiment with a plurality of black and gray water systems, Modular connecting corridors, if wide-enough, could not only provide wall-space for a surplus of storage lockers but wall space for a variety of living wall systems, again experimenting with a variety of such systems to learn which works best and in which respect. Again in turn, this environmental research is bound to spin-off technologies useful here on Earth, winning us overdue appreciation and support from the environmental community.
Carrying the green theme further, that the complex, being soil-shielded, will be operational year around, allows the inclusion of a greenhouse operation to supply fresh vegetables, and in time fresh fruit as well, to an uninterrupted succession of crews. Learning from the experience of Biosphere II, any type of agriculture system totally dependent on human labor, may result in everyone working overtime just to produce a starvation diet. We need to automate greenhouse systems, and, as a back up, rely on teleoperation from off-site individuals: a great opportunity to involve students, as well as a great opportunity to experiment with different automated and teleoperated equipment.

Modular Architecture Systems
    Indoors, Middoors, Lee-vac, Out-vac
    Connecting hallways, hubs
Modular Biospherics
 Living Walls, black water recycling systems, etc; abundant plantlife, use of water in the process of recycling for ambience features, etc. The goal is to minimze the amount of air and water recycling that must be centralized.
Spacesuits, Airlocks, Suitlocks

Research Opportunities that flow from the Environment

The Sandbox – teleoperation experiments
    Desert type sites offer a “sandbox” to play in, as do some quarries. That suggests that one research focus might be testing robotic and teleoperated earth (regolith) moving equipment to be used in site preparation (grading, leveling, removal of boulders, trenching), shielding emplacement, road construction, and mining operations. We could test equipment for soil sortation and sifting, sandbag filling equipment, block/brick production, etc. Placing soil shielding over the original complex, and over new modules as they are added, provides an ideal opportunity for experimentation, and will probably result in evolving engineering designs of the equipment involved.

On the Moon, a <3 second time delay is something that simple experiments show can be easily mastered. But how far can such teleoperation take us. Some activities will require quick responses that may set a limit on the practicality of teleoperation.
Volcanic deposits
    If the site is volcanic/basaltic in nature, that would be especially helpful. The lunar maria or seas are really frozen seas of lava, the surface layer of which has been pulverized into basalt-rich moondust (regolith). On the Moon, the ease and simplicity of using basalt as a material indicates that hewn, carved, and cast basalt will be one of the earliest lunar industries. Experiments along this line could develop commercial products, which could earn the complex supporting income. Currently, the Czech Republic produces cast basalt tiles of unique beauty, strength and abrasion resistance. Solid basalt could be quarried from road cuts through lava sheet flow fronts, to make construction blocks as well as blocks for sculptors. In India, basalt fibers have characteristics superior to glass fibers and even carbon fibers. How practical basalt-based research would be at any given site is another question, but we raise the possibility.

Abandoned mine galleries above the water table

 Some mining areas may offer galleries above the local water table. That  would be ideal “pre-shielded” volumes in which lighting, read simulated 29.5r Earth day long dayspan/nightspan cycles can be simulated. This opens three major research opportunities:
1) Passive Thermal Management Systems
Storing Nightspan cold for Dayspan cooling – There are working systems on Earth which store excess summer heat for winter heating and excess winter cold for summer cooling. While the temperature difference on the Moon is much greater, so is the length of our heating and cooling seasons. The total degree-days in each case are likely to be significantly closer.  Development of such systems would mean much lower nightspan power demands for heating purposes.

2) Demonstrate dayspan/nightspan operations to minimize power storage needs.
(Continuing productivity through the nightspan by use of "change of pace" task sequencing – This would be simplest to do in subsurface voids such as handy lavatubes, caves, or mine galleries. But there is a way to do it in shielded surface facilities. The goal is to determine the optimum power demand ratio between dayspan and nightspan operations.)

a) Energy intensive (and manpower light) tasks during dayspan
b) Manpower intensive (and energy light tasks during nightspan.
The goal is to see to what extent various typical outpost operations can be sequenced to go with power availability
3) Demonstrate nightspan power storage systems
• Fuel cells producible with lunar elements (Platinum-free?)
• Flywheels
• Closed loop hydroelectric systems (using a nearby elevation gradient)
• Other systems? Hybrid systems?
4) Experimental Lunar Agriculture
Plants are used to a 24-hour day/night cycle. That these mine galleries and naturally in darkness all the time, allows us to experiment with growing plants on a lunar 5)dayspan/nightspan schedule. Two weeks out of every four, they can be given all the light they can handle. The question is, that to minimize nightspan power demands, how little light can we give them and on what kind of schedule, so that they eventually go on to harvest. The “Nightspan Dark-hardiness Experiment” is likely to give different results for different plants, even for differing varieties of the same plants.
5) Develope, Demonstrate, Perfect Teleoperations equipment, procedures, systems

    The above architecture-related and site-related research opportunities do not exhaust the possibilities. But they provide a rational for logical future expansion of any initial research program for any Lunar Analog Research Station.
With each of these opportunities, comes a parallel set of options for student outreach. The Lunar Analog Research Station should be designed and located for an open-ended future for both research and educational opportunities.        ###


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