These inflatable dwellings with solar mirrors seduce the ESA for future villages on the Moon

In a not so distant horizon, several countries wish to settle permanently on the Moon. Several concepts of lunar habitats are therefore being studied or proposed by start-ups or companies. This is the case of the Austrian PneumoCell which offers a bold and ambitious concept of inflatable structures coupled with solar mirrors. with

While NasaNasa began its Artemis program back on the Moon and that several other space agencies are also planning to settle there permanently, several concepts of lunar habitats are flourishing here and there. Among the well-known European projects is that of the Austrian company PneumoCell. The latter is betting on creating a lunar habitat based mainly on inflatable structures and large mirrorsmirrors rotating to use the light of the SunSun. Called PneumoPlanet, this lunar habitat could accommodate up to 32 people.

One more concept therefore, but which seems to interest the European Space Agency (ESA). In early 2021, the latter granted PneumoCell funding to push its concept further and demonstrate its interest and feasibility. The study is now complete.

Inflatable structures for better durability of lunar habitats

This lunar habitat foresees the use of inflatable structures to create toroidal greenhouses from 5.20 to 22.20 meters in diameter, living spaces and connection tunnels between all these modules. The towers, which will support the rotating mirrors, will be made of tubes in carbon fibercarbon fiber. To protect the occupants of these places from the cold, radiation and meteoritesmeteoritesPneumoCell expects these modules to be covered with 4 to 5 meters of regolithregolith lunar. This coverage should ensure a high level ofthermal insulationthermal insulationwhich avoids too rapid cooling of the interior during phases of total darkness.

The habitat should operate self-sufficiently in the long term by producing and recycling its own oxygenoxygen and its nourishment from almost exclusively theenergyenergy of solar radiationsolar radiation. The most important innovation lies in these mirrors which reflect the visible light of the sun, while all harmful particle radiation is kept outside. This will allow natural sunlight to pass through a transparent sheet and enter the greenhouses with 65 kilowatts of energy, which is equivalent to 265 wattswatts per square meter, ideal for the photosynthesisphotosynthesis takes place. Inside the greenhouses, PneumoCell is convinced that it can produce oxygen and food in a self-sufficient and natural way from natural sunlight alone.

Moon: a 14-map atlas to identify the future location of a base

Unsurprisingly, PneumoPlanet will be built at the South Pole, where sunlight is abundant given the tilt axialaxial extremely faint of the moon. Ideally, this habitat will be made near a permanently shaded region, presumably at the bottom of a polar crater that has remained dark for ages so that it should harbor large amounts of water ice. Surprisingly, while the rims of Shackleton Crater, which has often been suggested as a site for the erection of a lunar polar habitat in previous studies, this might not be a suitable location, due to the escarpment and the roughness of the terrain, the PneumoCell study has identical sites at the South Pole, but also at the North Pole, which are much better suited to its concept.

Make the best use of the Moon’s natural resources

This concept of lunar habitat differs from other projects by its ambition to make maximum use of the natural resources available on the Moon, in particular near the poles, while minimizing the transfer of materials from the Earth to the lunar surface. Compared to other concepts, such as Moon Village by SOM-Architects which presents a rigid and partially inflatable structure almost “ready to use” and the Lunar Outpost from Foster & Partners, which consists of an inflatable structure covered with a 3D printed shell, PneumoPlanet has the advantage of presenting by far the lowest payload per cubic meter of usable surface, the most effective protection against radiation cosmic particles and the lowest energy requirements for the process of constructionconstruction and in operation. Furthermore, it is the only concept, among all those published so far, that offers a complete ecological cycle for self-sufficient production of food and oxygen.

While SpaceX’s Starship would obviously be capable of carrying all of the habitat elements, Ariane 64 and the multipurpose lunar lander Argonaut (formerly EL3 for European large logistics lander) could also take care of it.