As humans prepare to return to the Moon, this time to stay, there are so many different technologies that need to be developed and tested. NASA and the NSF are testing out a new prototype for an inflatable habitat that might eventually protect humans on the Moon. And they’re testing it in the most extreme place on Earth: Antarctica.
The newly developed inflatable habitat is inflated and pressurized, giving potential astronauts their own atmosphere. Inside the tent is heated, offering up 35 square metres (384 square feet) of living space, under a 2.4-metre (8-foot) ceiling. It also has access points for electrical power.
NASA currently uses a 50-year old tent design called a Jamesway hut. Television viewers will recognize these designs in the show M*A*S*H. Although there are new approaches to this old design, they’re rigid, difficult to ship, and have limited insulation. When you’re working in Antarctica, a lack of insulation is a serious problem.
The purpose of this new design is to test out how well an inflatable habitat will work in terms of packing, transportation, set up, power consumption and damage tolerance.
When astronauts do finally return to the Moon by 2020, they’ll be setting up a permanent lunar outpost. An inflatable habitat like this could be carried on future lunar rovers, and would allow the astronauts to set up a temporary home, far away from the permanent base. This would greatly increase their range, and allow the exploration of the most interesting lunar features – not just those nearby the base.
The inflatable habitat is being developed under NASA’s Innovative Partnerships Program.
Original Source: NSF News Release