|Friday / 31 March 2006|
Moon: Not For the Faint of Heart, But Many Seek to Make it Home. Larry Toups, head of Habitation Systems at NASA's Constellation Program’s Advanced Projects Office, discusses with Astrobiology Magazine the limits and challenges of designing the first frontier outpost on the Moon. For astronauts dreaming of lunar exploration, any kind of house would be an improvement over the cramped Apollo landing capsules. NASA currently is using mockups, drawing on generations of habitats in Antarctica, in an attempt to design the optimum lunar living rooms. One of the structures, called the Lunar Habitation Vertical Mockup, has a long, cylindrical shape reminiscent of the ISS and has a similar layout. Toups says the VSE initially calls for sortie missions consisting of four crewmembers going down to selected sites along the lunar surface, and staying for perhaps ten days. Eventually, a more permanent outpost could be built allowing a crew of four to six to stay from thirty days to six months. To protect the outpost from radiation, lunar regolith could be used in sandbags placed on top of the habitat. In the beginning, oxygen and water would be brought in. Toups believes over time there will be small demonstrations of extracting oxygen and water from the lunar soil, and eventually the life support system will be based on using lunar resources. Although scientists do not believe there is any life on the Moon, Toups says there should be awareness of any potential by-products that may be produced by humans. They would need to be stored for reuse, or brought back to Earth.