Category Archives: Space Settlement

Space settlement roundup – Aug.3.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human expansion into the solar system:

** Purdue University unveils Cislunar Space Engineering Initiatives program:

Vision Statement The Purdue Engineering Initiative in Cislunar Space (Cislunar Initiative) will envision and enable the collaborative utilization of cislunar space to extend humanity’s reach throughout the solar system.

Mission Statement Cislunar Initiative will provide national leadership in the development of cislunar space. Through a process of exploration and discovery, Cislunar Initiative will expand access to space, identify and utilize space resources, advance the development of space policy, and grow the cislunar economy.

Check out the program’s Objectives, which include an “incubator program to provide seed funding for proposal development”, a Industry-University Consortium on Cislunar Development, and a Cislunar Education Program.

** In Swiss IGLUNA program, student teams built & demostrated prototype space habitats in a glacier near Zermatt in the Swiss Alps:

In the first ESA_Lab@ project, student teams across Europe develop modular demonstrators that combined will set the foundation for a living in space.

Ideas of the everyday life find their way out into space and return solutions for a better living on Earth. Brick by brick these technologies will create the cornerstones for a community expanding into space.

ESA_Lab@ with its network acts as coordinator providing the institutional link between all parties, system engineering, and IT infrastructure.

Supervised and supported by their university the student teams

    • materialise their demonstrators
    • establish their local partner and sponsors network
    • interact with other teams
From Sept. 2018 to July 2019,  20 student teams

… from 13 universities from 9 countries around Europe are collaborating in this project called “IGLUNA – A Human Habitat in Ice: Demonstrating key enabling technologies for life support in frozen worlds”;

Each student team develops their contribution during two academic semesters starting in September 2018 until June 2019;

From 17 June to 3 July 2019, the students will test their modules in a field campaign in a glacier in Zermatt, Switzerland;

The whole habitat which will be build inside the glacier cave in Zermatt will also be accessible for tourists and media;

The Swiss Space Center coordinates the project and serves as a coordinator for the events and main systems engineering activities.

An article about the EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) team’s participation in IGLUNA this year: Lunar mission deep in Zermatt’s ice – EPFL

At EPFL, students from several schools have been busy working on the project since September. The team, led by architect and lecturer Pierre Zurbrügg, built an igloo-like habitat 15 meters below the surface of the Klein Matterhorn glacier, which stands 3,883 meters above sea level. The structure, made from load-bearing and insulating materials, was designed and built by students from the School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC) as part of the “Living on Mars” teaching unit. “We had to factor in the practical constraints of the IGLUNA field site,” explains Zurbrügg. “For instance, we needed to be able to transport the materials, assemble the habitat quickly, and work in temperatures of -4°C. We opted for a brick structure that’s relatively easy to assemble. It took just three days to build.”

** Enormous caverns beneath the lunar surface could offer excellent sites for early settlements: Living Underground on the Moon: How Lava Tubes Could Aid Lunar Colonization | Space.com

Researchers have identified “pits” on the moon, which are likely lava-tube “skylights” — geological doorways to underground tunnels that were once filled with lava.

If they do indeed provide access to lava tubes, skylights could be a game-changer for human lunar exploration, said NASA Chief Scientist Jim Green. Lava tubes are protected from the harsh environment of the lunar surface, which is bombarded by radiation and experiences temperature extremes. One lunar day lasts about 29 Earth days, meaning surface locations endure about two straight weeks of daylight followed by two weeks of darkness. 

** Special report Project Moon Base in IEEE Spectrum magazine includes numerous articles and infographics about “preparing to build the first permanent settlement in space”. For example,

** Water may be even more abundant on the Moon than previously indicated:

From David:

The polar regions of Earth’s Moon may contain significantly more water ice than previously thought, according to new research by space scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Shoring up this belief are two decades of observations from telescopes and spacecraft, not of the Moon, but the planet Mercury. What’s been found are glacier-like water ice deposits near Mercury’s poles.

Why, despite their similar surface conditions, does our Moon have so much less ice than Mercury?

“The simple answer is that the Moon has lots of ice — it’s just buried below the surface,” said David Paige, a UCLA professor of planetary science and a co-author of the study.

The study, published July 22 in Nature Geoscience, points to the existence of previously undetected thick ice deposits on the Moon. It was led by Lior Rubanenko, a UCLA graduate student.

** An outline of how to overcome the hurdles to settling the Moon: How to build a moon base – The Conversation

Ultimately we have the technology to make a lunar base viable, but no amount of innovation can completely negate the risks involved. Whether such a base goes ahead or not will depend on this calculation perhaps more than any other. The question is whether we as a society have the stomach for lunar settlement, as well as lunar lettuce, or not.

** A commercial lunar EVA suit may fill a major gap in NASA’s plans for returning astronauts to the Moon :

Collins Aerospace unveiled a prototype of the Next Generation Space Suit system which could be used for excursions on the surface of the Moon. On Thursday, July 25th, a model demonstrated the ease of walking in the suit by trotting around the lobby of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC and climbing up and down a few steps. The company claims that the suit is about half the weight of the original Apollo space suits. It’s supposed to be much more flexible, too, capable of fitting a wide range of body types from small Moon walkers to those well over six feet tall.

Collins Aerospace has a history of building space suits for NASA. The company collaborated with their longtime partner ILC Dover to build both the suits and attached life support systems currently used by astronauts on the International Space Station. Now the two companies want to show NASA that they have something the agency can use for their Moon-bound Artemis program, as well.

Next Generation Space Suit
Next Generation Space Suit system prototype from Collins Aerospace.

I’ll note that besides advanced space suits, there are many technologies (e.g. space tugs, fuel depots, in situ resource utilization systems, etc.)  needed for space settlement that NASA has not developed due to so much of the agency’s funding being diverted to the unneeded SLS rocket and Orion capsule projects. There would have been just as many jobs created to bring these essential in-space infrastructure components into operation as were created by the SLS/Orion jobs program but for a Congressional Swamp Kings a big boondoggle in-hand today is worth far more than dozens of small projects that will pay off richly in the future.

** Astrobotic & CMU to develop MoonRanger, a 13 kilogram autonomous rover to make sophisticated measurements of the lunar surface on missions starting in 2021-2022 time frame: Astrobotic Awarded $5.6 Million NASA Contract to Deliver Autonomous Moon Rover – Astrobotic

The MoonRanger rover enables a new paradigm of exploration autonomy pioneered by Professor Red Whittaker at Carnegie Mellon that is essential for exploring lunar pits, characterizing ice, investigating magnetic swirls, and deploying future mobile instruments on the lunar surface. Modest in size and mass, MoonRanger offers superb mobility at a light weight—ultimately equating to a more affordable flight platform. The rover will be a test platform for autonomy that will usher in a new era of operability in space.

“MoonRanger offers a means to accomplish far-ranging science of significance, and will exhibit an enabling capability on missions to the Moon for NASA and the commercial sector. The autonomy techniques demonstrated by MoonRanger will enable new kinds exploration missions that will ultimately herald in a new era on the Moon,” says Whittaker.

“This latest NASA award to develop MoonRanger for a mission to the Moon is another example of how Astrobotic is the world leader in lunar logistics. Our lander and rover capabilities are designed to deliver our customers to the Moon and allow them to carry out meaningful, low-cost activities for science, exploration and commerce,” says John Thornton, CEO of Astrobotic. MoonRanger joins Polaris and CubeRover as an additional offering that extends Astrobotic’s mobility as a service to customers across the world.

** Mining of M-type asteroid 16 Psyche could drastically lower the cost of many precious metals: The Golden Asteroid That Could Make Everyone On Earth A Billionaire | OilPrice.com

Whether it was the Big Bang, Midas or God himself, we don’t really need to unlock the mystery of the origins of gold when we’ve already identified an asteroid worth $700 quintillion in precious heavy metals.

If anything launches this metals mining space race, it will be this asteroid–Psyche 16, taking up residence between Mars and Jupiter and carrying around enough heavy metals to net every single person on the planet close to a trillion dollars.

The massive quantities of gold, iron and nickel contained in this asteroid are mind-blowing. The discovery has been made. Now, it’s a question of proving it up.

As often pointed out in response to such articles, “massive quantities” going into the market would result in big drops in the prices of such metals. However, that is exactly the process that enriches our economies and raises our standard of living. The introduction of the Hall–Héroult process in the 1800s, for example, converted aluminum from an expensive precious metal into a low cost material that enabled innumerable technologies such as airliners and rust free siding.

It is important to remember than lowering the price of something is the same as giving out non-expiring gift cards that permanently discount the price of that thing.

** Spin tables to counteract zero gravity health effects: Artificial gravity breaks free from science fiction – University of Colorado Boulder

Ultimately, spacecraft on long distance voyages and in-space habitats will rotate to provide “spin gravity” that will eliminate the bad effects of zero gravity. In the meantime, however, daily high-g sessions on a spin table or similar compact rotating system may be sufficient to maintain good health.

This Colorado project investigated how to acclimate users to higher and higher spin rates without getting nauseous.

The team began by recruiting a group of volunteers and tested them on the centrifuge across 10 sessions.

But unlike most earlier studies, the CU Boulder researchers took things slow. They first spun their subjects at just one rotation per minute, and only increased the speed once each recruit was no longer experiencing the cross-coupled illusion.

“I present at a conference and everyone says, ‘she’s the one who spins people and makes them sick,’” Bretl said. “But we try to avoid instances of motion sickness because the whole point of our research is to make it tolerable.”

The personalized approach worked. By the end of 10th session, the study subjects were all spinning comfortably, without feeling any illusion, at an average speed of about 17 rotations per minute. That’s much faster than any previous research had been able to achieve. The group reported its results in June in the Journal of Vestibular Research.

** Domes of silica aerogel could make for comfortable environments for Mars settlements: A material way to make Mars habitable | Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The researchers suggest that regions of the Martian surface could be made habitable with a material — silica aerogel — that mimics Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse effect. Through modeling and experiments, the researchers show that a two to three-centimeter-thick shield of silica aerogel could transmit enough visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation, and raise temperatures underneath permanently above the melting point of water, all without the need for any internal heat source.

More details in Enabling Martian habitability with silica aerogel via the solid-state greenhouse effect | Nature Astronomy

… Specifically, we demonstrate via experiments and modelling that under Martian environmental conditions, a 2–3 cm-thick layer of silica aerogel will simultaneously transmit sufficient visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation and raise temperatures underneath it permanently to above the melting point of water, without the need for any internal heat source. Placing silica aerogel shields over sufficiently ice-rich regions of the Martian surface could therefore allow photosynthetic life to survive there with minimal subsequent intervention. This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification. In addition, it can be developed systematically, starting from minimal resources, and can be further tested in extreme environments on Earth today.

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The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility

Space settlement roundup – June.19.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to the establishment of human settlements in the solar system:

Lunar resources:

** An interview with Astrobotic CEO John Thornton about the recent $79M contract awarded to the company by NASA to send payloads to the Moon in 2021 aboard the company’s robotic lander/rover: ” Sunday Business Page: Astrobotic 6/9/2019 – CBS Pittsburgh

** A TMRO.tv program about Japan’s ispace, which has raised around $100M for lunar robotic missions: This private company will mine the moon – Orbit 12.19

Julien Lamamy from i-space joins us to talk their plans to make lunar transportation cheaper and more accessible, and begin using lunar resources.

Mars resources:

** NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover includes device to derive oxygen from Martian CO2:

Crazy Engineering explores a technology demonstration riding aboard NASA’s Mars 2020 rover that’s straight out of science fiction novels like “The Martian.” It’s an oxygen generator called MOXIE, designed to convert carbon dioxide — which constitutes about 96% of the Martian atmosphere — into breathable oxygen.

More at Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) – NASA Mars

** Perchlorate in Martian soil also can supply oxygen: Device seeks to brew oxygen on Mars from dangerous salt – SFChronicle.com

John Coates, a microbiologist at UC Berkeley, has patented a mechanism he says can turn the perchlorate into oxygen fit for humans. Throughout the development process, he consulted NASA scientists who see Coates’ invention as a partial answer to the oxygen issue, but not the entire solution.

“What happens if astronauts are 10 miles from home (base) and they have a big problem and need oxygen? That is the niche that the perchlorate would fill,” said Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. “When you are (on Mars) out in middle of nowhere, scooping up a bag of dirt to produce oxygen would be easy to do.”

** SpaceX needs partners for development of Mars resources for settlements: SpaceX beginning to tackle some of the big challenges for a Mars journey | Ars Technica

… those things beyond building the rocket are critical. One of the key elements needed to make for a more cost-effective Mars mission is in-situ resource utilization, in which crew members use resources available on Mars to reduce the complexity of the mission—essentially living off the land. This was first proposed in the Mars Direct plan outlined by Martin Marietta, as it allows for a much smaller and cheaper mission. The primary benefit accrues from making the propellant for the return journey to Earth on Mars itself, reducing the cost of the mission significantly.

This is one area in which SpaceX is especially keen to find partners. “There are a lot of important aspects in producing the propellant for this vehicle,” Wooster said. The company has plans to do this on its own if it has to, but he said SpaceX would gladly allow others to assist. SpaceX is also seeking partners for critical needs such as power, habitats, science, food storage, and more. Beginning in September 2018, the company began to convene conferences to solicit advice and support in these areas.

** Dr. Robert Zubrin presented Mars Direct 2.0 at the recent ISDC 2019. The key feature of the Mars Direct approach is to maximize utilization of Martian resources to reduce as much as possible the amount of mass that needs to be delivered from Earth to sustain the first base on the Red Planet.

Asteroid resources:

** A University of Adelaide group is developing a solvent extraction process for asteroid mining that would reduce the support resources needed and make such mining more feasible economically: Asteroid mining edges closer with solvent extraction – The Engineer

The technique relies upon continuous-flow chemistry, where tailored combinations of solvents are mixed with asteroid material to harvest the precious metals contained within. According to the researchers, the process is scalable and can operate in zero gravity and vacuum conditions. Its capabilities are currently being trialled in-orbit following a May 4 launch coordinated in partnership with US firm Space Tango.

** NASA funds Mini Bee spacecraft to demo technology for extraction of water and other volatiles from asteroids:

NIAC normally focuses on paper studies but this unusual Phase III grant of $2M, along with $1M in private investment, will fund a hardware mission in low earth orbit.

This flight demonstration mission concept proposes a method of asteroid resource harvesting called optical mining. Optical mining is an approach for excavating an asteroid and extracting water and other volatiles into an inflatable bag. Called Mini Bee, the mission concept aims to prove optical mining, in conjunction with other innovative spacecraft systems, can be used to obtain propellant in space. The proposed architecture includes resource prospecting, extraction and delivery.

Apis™ is a breakthrough mission and flight system architecture designed to revolutionize NASA’s human exploration of deep space and to enable massive space industrialization and human settlement. Apis™ is enabled by Public Private Partnership (PPP) and a series of inventions including the Optical Mining™ method of asteroid resource harvesting, the Omnivore™ solar thermal thruster, and a spacecraft architecture that uses highly concentrated sunlight as a far lighter, less expensive, and higher performing alternative to electric power in space.” Credits: Joel Sercel, TransAstra Corporation

The Mini Bee mission will be carried out in partnership with sister company Momentus, which is developing in-space tugs that use water as propellant:

Mini Bee will use the Momentus Vigoride orbital shuttle spacecraft bus and fly into orbit as a piggyback on an ESPA ring launch to low Earth orbit along with a man made miniature asteroid which will be released into orbit separately from the Mini Bee. Mini Bee will chase down and capture the synthetic asteroid and demonstrate asteroid mining and water extraction along with high thrust water based propulsion.

Commercial space habitats:

** Bigelow Aerospace‘s posts “First Base” lunar settlement architecture and describes plans for ISS commercial activity. On the BA website and on Twitter, the company has posted descriptions and images of a design for a lunar base developed with the company’s expandable habitat modules:

A technique for protecting the habitats from radiation was described on June 17th:

More on our “First Base”: How do we help protect astronauts from radiation on the surface of the moon? Placing regolith over their heads has long been considered necessary but previous methods have not been practical. On the lunar surface, the simpler the construction the better.

Astronauts fill durable tubes with regolith. The tubes (~20 m long) are laced over the habitat to build a desired thickness. There is a simple approach to this placement. This approach to radiation protection doesn’t require moving parts. The astronauts perform the tube loading.

Outside of the habitat, an enclosed rover outfitted with water or other tiles provides much needed shielding on the lunar surface. The two person enclosed rover and the solar field are deployed from the two warehouses of “First Base”.

** And Robert Bigelow announced that his company has contracted SpaceX for Crew Dragon flights to take customers to the ISS. (Bigelow is proposing to NASA to attach a habitat to the station.): Bigelow Space Operations Announces it has Reserved up to Four Dedicated SpaceX Launches to the International Space Station – Bigelow Aerospace

On Friday, June 7, 2019 Bigelow Space Operations (BSO) announced that last September of 2018 BSO paid substantial sums as deposits and reservation fees to secure up to four SpaceX launches to the International Space Station (ISS). These launches are dedicated flights each carrying up to four people for a duration of one to possibly two months on the ISS.

BSO is excited about NASA’s announcements last Friday. BSO has demonstrated its sincerity and commitment to moving forward on NASA’s commercialization plans for the ISS through the execution of last September’s launch contracts. BSO intends to thoroughly digest all of the information that was dispersed last week so that all opportunities and obligations to properly conduct the flights and activities of new astronauts to the ISS can be responsibly performed.

In these early times, the seat cost will be targeted at approximately $52,000,000 per person.

The next big question is when is this all going to happen? Once the SpaceX rocket and capsule are certified by NASA to fly people to the ISS, then this program can begin.

As you might imagine, as they say “the devil is in the details”, and there are many. But we are excited and optimistic that all of this can come together successfully, and BSO has skin in the game.

** The Island Zero Alpha design for a first generation rotating station uses what appear to be Bigelow type of modules. The design was proposed a few years ago in a British Interplanetary Society sponsored study. (Item via Rocketeers):

Island Zero Alpha is an original space habitat design from the study group on space settlement in the British Interplanetary Society. Assembled and stationed in low Earth orbit, it is 115 metres in radius. The ring of habitat modules rotates at 2 rpm and this produces a pseudo-gravity of around 0.5g on the floor of the modules. The idea behind Island Zero Alpha is to move up to larger habitats than the International Space Station and to learn more about the effects of pseudo-gravity on humans in space. The station is expected to have a crew of around fifteen to twenty.

Other space settlement topics:

** Latest on the SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise conference set for September 9-10 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington: SSI 50: First Conference Panel Lineup Announced | Space Studies Institute

SSI (Space Studies Institute) was founded by the late Princeton professor Gerard O’Neill to pursue development of technologies that enable large in-space habitats. Here is an overview of such colonies: O’Neill colonies: A decades-long dream for settling space | Astronomy.com

** Japanese project develops system for making electronic circuits in space: Succeeded in Prototyping Integrated Circuits (ICs) with a Small-Volume Production System (Minimal Fab) – JAXA and AIST paving the pathway to minimal fab-produced ICs aboard spacecraft – JAXA

AIST [National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology ] has built a fully automatic Minimal Fab system, which enables a circuit designer to manufacture a semiconductor device on his own by operating a series of manufacturing equipment. Maneuvered by a JAXA circuit engineer, the new system has proven itself and produced the above ICs.

These prototyping and operational demonstration have opened the way to manufacturing electronic devices aboard spacecraft with a Minimal Fab process, which is expected to broaden the applications of the new process.

** Expanding the garden on the ISS: NASA Testing Method to Grow Bigger Plants in Space | NASA

In an effort to increase the ability to provide astronauts nutrients on long-duration missions as the agency plans to sustainably return to the Moon and move forward to Mars, the Veg-PONDS-02 experiment is currently underway aboard the International Space Station.

The present method of growing plants in space uses seed bags, referred to as pillows, that astronauts push water into with a syringe. Using this method makes it difficult to grow certain types of “pick and eat” crops beyond lettuce varieties. Crops like tomatoes use a large amount of water, and pillows don’t have enough holding capacity to support them.

As an alternative to the pillows, 12 passive orbital nutrient delivery system (PONDS) plant growth units are being put through their paces. The PONDS units are less expensive to produce, have more water holding capacity, provide a greater space for root growth and are a completely passive system—meaning PONDS can provide air and water to crops without extra power.

The 21-day experiment is a collaboration between NASA, Techshot, Inc., the Tupperware Brands Corporation, fluids experts at NASA’s Glenn Research Center and Mark Weislogel at Portland State University. As a U.S. National Laboratory, the space station provides commercial companies and government agencies with the ability to test the experiment in a microgravity environment.

** Disabilities on earth may be advantages in space: In a recent presentation to the Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group, Sheri Wells-Jensen of Bowling Green State University discussed what is and isn’t a disability in space: “Preparing to Survive: the Case for Disabled Astronauts and Colonists”:

And in a Sci-Am blog posting, she discussed the example of a blind crew member on a space station: The Case for Disabled Astronauts – Scientific American Blog Network

After all, in a serious accident, the first thing to go might be the lights! This generally means that the first thing a sighted astronaut must do for security is ensure visual access to the environment. He hunts for a flashlight, and if emergency lighting comes on, his eyes take a moment to adjust. Meanwhile, the blind astronaut is already heading toward the source of the problem. In the fire aboard the Russian Mir space station, in 1997, the crew struggled as smoke obscured their view. The blind astronaut, while still affected by the lack of good air, would not be bothered by either dim lighting or occluding smoke. She would accurately direct the fire extinguisher at the source of heat and noise.

** Another debate on where to focus initial space settlement efforts was held at the National Space Society‘s ISDC 2019 meeting:

** ET mega-space settlements: The Space Show – Fri, 05/31/2019 –  Dr. Greg Matloff and C. Bangs “discussed their book, Stellar Engineering, terrestrial & possible alien megastructures & concepts for advanced civilizations outside our solar system”.

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Moon Rush: The New Space Race

Space settlement roundup – May.16.2019

A sampling of recent articles, videos, and images related to human settlements in the solar system:

** Jeff Bezos plans to develop technologies that will enable the building of enormous in-space habitats according to his statements in last week’s presentation, which included the unveiling of the Blue Moon lunar lander. The habitats would rotate to provide spin gravity and would ultimately be large enough for cities, rivers, and forests.

Large Habitat - Blue Origin
An imaginative rendering of a future in-space rotating habitat. Credits: Blue Origin

** A call to young people to help make space settlements happen: Club for the Future powered by Blue Origin

This club is a way to connect young people who love our home planet, who believe in the power of human ingenuity and the abundance of space, and who are unshakably optimistic about the future. We welcome students, educators, and fans of the future to join a worldwide community of dreamers sponsored by Blue Origin, builders of reusable rockets and roads to space.

Club For The Future Logo

** SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise will be held on September 9-10 at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. The meeting is sponsored by the Space Studies Institute (SSI), which was founded by Gerard O’Neill, the late Princeton professor of physics cited by Jeff Bezos as an inspiration for his space ambitions.

O’Neill promoted large in-space habitats as alternatives to settlements on the surface of planets and moons. In 1974, SSI initiated a series of conferences that examined the methods and technologies needed to make such enormous structures a reality. Here is the latest information on registration, speakers, and agenda for the next SSI conference: SSI 50 Conference Update

SSI 50 marks the kickoff for a new SSI project, the Space Settlement Enterprise. This multi-year project will reexamine the original High Frontier vision created by Professor Gerard O’Neill, bringing his ideas up to date with new technology, new discoveries, and new space ventures. This year’s conference will lay the groundwork that project, helping to determine the questions that need to be addressed. Our panel format is designed to allow for plenty of Q&A and audience interaction. There will be no passive lectures. We need your ideas.

** A recent update on SSI’s proposed G-Lab rotating space station and other Institute projects:

Enabling Permanent Human Settlement On The High Frontier. February 27th 2017 Space Studies Institute President Gary C Hudson spoke at the Silicon Valley Space Center/AIAA Tech Talk meeting in Santa Clara, California about two important SSI programs: G-Lab, the free flying reduced gravity spinner co-orbited with ISS and EPI, supporting fundamental R&D for true “Space Drives.”

** Gerard O’Neill and Isaac Asimov discussed in-space colonies on an interview program in 1975:

** Enabling the first equatorial low earth orbit rotating habitat is the subject of a new paper by Al Globus: Near Term Policy and Research Priorities to Enable the First Space Settlement, Al Globus  (pdf)

We present a number of preliminary policy options and research directions intended to enable construction of the first space settlement starting in two or three decades. Most of the necessary technology development can be driven by either Earth­bound applications or the construction and operation of a series of ever more capable space hotels as space hotel requirements are very similar to those of space settlements.

This paper examines policy options for the necessary development that will not be catalyzed by terrestrial needs or space hotels. The options include making space settlement an official goal for the relevant agencies, developing launchers a factor of 20 or more less expensive than today, and debris cleanup.We will also describe an applied research program to better understand the Equatorial Low Earth Orbit (ELEO) radiation environment, space farms, psycho ­social issues, and unique settlement construction and operation issues.

Globus, an engineer at NASA Ames, has written extensively about starting space settlement with modest-sized rotating habitats in equatorial earth orbit where radiation levels are quite low. See Free Space Settlement for links to several papers on the concept.

In addition, check out The High Frontier: An Easier Way by Globus and Tom Marotta. The book describes the ELEO rotating habitat concept for a general audience.

** Underground colonies on the Moon are the opposite approach to the ELEO habitats but might happen sooner: Lunar tunnel engineers excited by boring Moon colonies – ATF/Phys.org

“So every plan for having a habitat on the moon involves making a trench, creating a structure and covering it with some sort of regolith, which is the soil on the moon.

“Our idea is to actually start underground, using a mechanism we already use on the earth, a tunnel boring machine, to make a continuous opening to create habitats or connect the colonies together,” he added.

Analysis of images of the lunar surface show lava tubes capable of housing large cities underground, said Rostami, director of the Earth Mechanics Institute at the US Colorado School of Mines.

** The Inflatable Lunar/Mars Analog Habitat project at the University of North Dakota recently carried out the seventh simulated space mission. The ILMAH Mission VII began on April 25th and lasted till May 7th with a three-member crew consisting of Space Studies grad students Jared Peick and Peter Henson (Mission Specialists), and Stefan Tomovic (Mission Commander). Reports on the mission can be found at

For example, Mission 7 Crew Juggles EVA, Plant Care and Cognitive Space Research – UND.. blog

The three-member Mission-VII crew completed their first Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA-1) on Friday (04/26/19). Saturday (04/27/19) was a science-packed day for the crew members. The team conducted research with an electroencephalogram (EEG) study, practiced emergency responses with simulation software and took care of the plants in the habitat’s Plant Production Module (PPM).
The habitat residents conducted EVA1 with Commander Stefan Tomović and Mission Specialist Peter Henson going out on EVA, and Mission Specialist Jared Peick serving as CAPCOM for EVA1. EVA1 lasted an hour and ten minutes with the objectives of inspecting the habitat, collecting water from a resupply drop, and gathering geological samples…

** Space base simulations are also underway in China:

** Space habitat studies at Purdue: How would you survive on Mars? – Purdue University News

The Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats Institute is working to ensure that the first long-term settlement on other planetary bodies are safe from hazards such as a meteoroid colliding with the moon or violent sandstorms on Mars.

Shirley Dyke, head of Purdue University’s RETH Institute, said she noticed that the habitats on other planets portrayed on TV don’t look realistic. In order to keep occupants alive, a habitat system on another planet would have to be much more sophisticated, even smart.

** The SpaceFund’s Habitats Database is the third element of the

SpaceFund Reality (SFR) rating, focused on space habitats. With this rating we begin to move into areas that are more obviously related to the SpaceFund mission of supporting “frontier enabling” technologies. While the launch database showed a field that is over crowded, many other critical sectors of the space economy are not, and some are frankly, wide open. 

Our research has showed that this sector, space habitats, is still underdeveloped and represents a potential opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs. If one is to believe what Musk, Bezos and governments such as the US and UAE are saying about their plans to both dramatically lower the cost of space access and enable a permanent human presence in space, within a few years we may see a ‘housing shortage’ on the frontier.

** Japan’s iSpace is building rovers to explore the Moon and has over $90M and engineers like Akane Imamura to do the job: Meet The Engineer Dreaming of a Lunar City

After a decades-long lull, interest in the moon is back — this time led by startups, including Tokyo-based ispace Inc., which is hoping to land two of its miniature rovers on the lunar surface in 2021. Akane Imamura is part of ispace’s team racing to make that deadline, and their ultimate goal is nothing short of making the moon not only habitable, but home to an ecosystem of thriving businesses. Bloomberg Technology’s Aki Ito joins Imamura’s team as they test their most recent prototypes at a lunar simulation facility run by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

** Transastra Corp‘s developing affordable lunar ice mining: Lunar-Polar Propellant Mining Outpost (LPMO) | NASA

The Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost (LGMO) (see quad chart graphic [below]) is a breakthrough mission architecture that promises to greatly reduce the cost of human exploration and industrialization of the Moon. LGMO is based on two new innovations that together solve the problem of affordable lunar polar ice mining for propellant production.

The first innovation is based on a new insight into lunar topography: our analysis suggests that there are large (hundreds of meters) landing areas in small (0.5-1.5 km) nearpolar craters on which the surface is permafrost in perpetual darkness but with perpetual sunlight available at altitudes of only 10s to 100s of meters. In these prospective landing sites, deployable solar arrays held vertically on masts 100 m or so in length (lightweight and feasible in lunar gravity) can provide nearly continuous power. This means that a large lander, such as the Blue Moon vehicle proposed by Blue Origin, a BFR; or a modestly sized lunar ice mining outpost could sit on mineable permafrost with solar arrays in perpetual sunlight on masts providing affordable electric power without the need to separate power supply from the load.

Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost
Lunar Polar Gas-Dynamic Mining Outpost

The second enabling innovation for LGMO is Radiant Gas Dynamic (RGD) mining. RGD mining is a new Patent Pending technology invented by TransAstra to solve the problem of economically and reliably prospecting and extracting large quantities (1,000s of tons per year) of volatile materials from lunar regolith using landed packages of just a few tons each. To obviate the problems of mechanical digging and excavation, RGD mining uses a combination of radio frequency, microwave, and infrared radiation to heat permafrost and other types of ice deposits with a depth-controlled heating profile….

** Using “biology to build a better, more sustainable universe” is the goal of The Synthetic Biology Innovation Network or SynBioBeta. And BetaSpace is the sector in charge of developing an  innovation ecosystem for space settlements –

Recently, innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have taken extraordinary steps toward getting humans to other worlds cheaply and safely. But the challenge remains: How will we sustain ourselves when we get there? Just as important, what are the planetary technologies we need today to ensure our home planet remains healthy long enough for future generations to fully realize our dream of space exploration?

BetaSpace aims to build a tech industry to solve this challenge. It will bring together companies in earth-based industries to explore how to accelerate the technologies and products to sustain human life here and off-planet. Just as SynBioBeta has done for the synthetic biology industry, BetaSpace will be the innovation ecosystem for building a better, sustainable world wherever humans may live.

Here is an article about a recent BetaSpace event: As Coachella raged, the L.A. tech world made plans to live on Mars – Los Angeles Times

One hundred miles to the southeast, masses of festival heads were gathering in the desert for Coachella’s first April weekend. But this small crew of space scientists, synthetic biologists, investors, entrepreneurs and one partygoer with flamethrower had higher ambitions.

By jet, bus and more than a few Teslas, they came to this desolate valley for Betaspace: a one-night, invite-only confab for the not-quite-yet-burgeoning space settlement industry.

Through sheer force of festive networking, its organizers hoped to spawn the companies and concepts that could allow humanity to establish bases on Mars (or maybe the moon), or “terraform,” as they say, our nearest neighbors into habitable worlds and spin off technologies for us earthbound humans in the process.

To the brains behind the operation, this was also the first step on a new path for the L.A. tech scene. Once a dominant player, back when tech and aerospace were synonymous, the Southland fell from prominence as silicon, software and start-ups concentrated in the Bay Area. Should space colonization actually become a thing, however, Southern California could capitalize thanks to its long history in rocketry and its lively biotech sector.

** Living above the arctic circle has some similarities to the first space settlements. Here is a story of one man’s pursuit of self-sustaining agriculture in the arctic circle village of Longyearbyen, Norway: Trying to grow food in the Arctic – BBC News

BTW: I would certainly feel safer living in a lunar or Martian colony with today’s technology than in the first arctic settlements with the technology of many centuries ago.

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The Case for Space:
How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up
a Future of Limitless Possibility

Two teams 3D-printed prototype Mars habitats in battle for $700k from NASA

Here is an account of the Mars habitat printing contest held last week in Illinois between teams from Penn State and the New York-based design agency AI SpaceFactory in the final phase of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge competition: AI SpaceFactory Wins NASA’s 3D-Printed Extraterrestrial Habitats Challenge – IEEE Spectrum

In a cavernous arena outside of Peoria, Illinois, two industrial robots worked against the clock last weekend to finish their tasks. Each had been converted into a towering 3-D printer and programmed to build one-third-scale models of extraterrestrial habitats. For 30 hours over three days, generators chugged and hydraulics hissed as robotic arms moved in patterns, stacking long beads of thick “ink” into layers. Gradually, familiar forms began to emerge from the facility’s dirt floor: a gray, igloo-like dwelling and a tall, maroon egg.

Humanity’s future on Mars was taking shape.

AI SpaceFactory took first place and $500k while the Penn State team came in second and got $200k.

An overview of the contest from Caterpillar, one of the co-sponsors of the competition:

Here is a video from the AI SpaceFactory showing the construction and testing of their habitat structure:

A release from NASA on the awards

Teams 3D Print Planetary Habitats, Awarded $700K in NASA Challenge

After 30 hours of 3D printing over four days of head-to-head competition, NASA and partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, have awarded $700,000 to two teams in the final round of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The top prize of $500,000 was awarded to New York based AI. SpaceFactory. Second-place and $200,000 was awarded to Pennsylvania State University of University Park.

The two teams faced off May 1-4 at Caterpillar’s Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois, creating subscale shelters out of recyclables and materials that could be found on deep-space destinations, like the Moon and Mars. The size of the structures had to be a one-third scale version of their architectural designs. Each team employed robotic construction techniques that allowed minimal human intervention. Such technologies will enable more sustainable and autonomous exploration missions.

“The final milestone of this competition is a culmination of extremely hard work by bright, inventive minds who are helping us advance the technologies we need for a sustainable human presence on the Moon, and then on Mars,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges. “We celebrate their vision, dedication and innovation in developing concepts that will not only further NASA’s deep-space goals, but also provide viable housing solutions right here on Earth.”

The habitats were constructed in 10-hour increments in front of a panel of judges. Once printing was complete, the structures were subjected to several tests and evaluated for material mix, leakage, durability and strength.

Beginning in 2015, the multi-year, multi-phase competition challenged teams to demonstrate many different additive manufacturing technologies, from design to software modeling to physical construction. The unique challenge was competed in three phases: design, structural member and on-site habitat construction. The challenge structure allowed NASA to task the teams to address many facets of 3D construction, and to involve a broader range of teams with various expertise. Throughout the competition, more than 60 teams have participated, and NASA awarded over $2 million in prize money.

“It is an impressive achievement for these two teams to demonstrate this disruptive and terrific 3D-printing technology at such a large scale,” said Lex Akers, dean of Bradley’s Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology. “By teaming up with NASA and Caterpillar, we are proud to bring these teams together in an environment where they can innovate, create and challenge our vision of what’s possible. Congratulations to both teams for their accomplishments.”

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is managed through a partnership with NASA’s Centennial Challenges program and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. Bradley has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar, Bechtel, Brick & Mortar Ventures and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to administer the competition. NASA’s Centennial Challenges program is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information about the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/3DPHab

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Moon Rush: The New Space Race

Space settlement roundup – Mar.30.2019

A sampling of items that I’ve come across related to space settlement:

** 3 private teams share a $100,000 award from NASA for their Mars habitat design submissions in the agency’s 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge:

Teams competing in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge completed the latest level of the competition – complete virtual construction – and the top three were awarded a share of the $100,000 prize purse. This stage of the challenge required teams to create a full-scale habitat design, using modeling software. This level built upon an earlier stage that also required virtual modeling.

Team SEArch+/Apis Cor won first place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The unique shape of their habitat allows for continuous reinforcement of the structure. Light enters through trough-shaped ports on the sides and top. Credits: Team SEArch+/Apis Cor

Eleven team entries were scored and awarded points based on architectural layout, programming, efficient use of interior space, and the 3D-printing scalability and constructability of the habitat. Teams also prepared short videos providing insight into their designs as well as miniature 3D-printed models that came apart to showcase the interior design. Points were also awarded for aesthetic representation and realism. After evaluation by a panel of judges, NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, awarded the following teams:

    1. SEArch+/Apis Cor – New York – $33,954.11
    2. Zopherus – Rogers, Arkansas – $33,422.01
    3. Mars Incubator – New Haven, Connecticut – $32,623.88

The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge will culminate with a head-to-head subscale structure print May 1-4, 2019, and the awarding of an $800,000 prize purse. Media and the public will be invited to attend the event in Peoria, Illinois.

This video describes the top scoring Team SEArch+/Apis Cor Mars habitat design:

In February, Team SEArch+/Apis Cor Mars and three others shared $300,000 after their 3D printing samples withstood a series of tests:

Four teams will share a $300,000 prize for successful completion of the seal test stage of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition to create sustainable shelters suitable for the Moon, Mars or beyond using resources available on site in these locations. For this level of the competition, teams submitted 3D-printed samples that were tested for their ability to hold a seal, for strength and for durability in temperature extremes.

Team Zopherus won second place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team’s design would be constructed by an autonomous roving printer that prints a structure and then moves on to the next site. Credits: Zopherus.
Watch their virtual video model here.
The virtual design from team Mars Incubator won third place in the Phase 3: Level 4 software modeling stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team is a collection of engineers and artists.  Credits: Mars Incubator
Watch their virtual video model here.

** Dennis Wingo talk at at NASA Ames on March 6th, 2019 in which he lays out the “direction and steps to the Industrialization of the Moon”:

 

** Some space settlement related conferences upcoming this year:

**** International Space Development Conference 2019 (ISDC 2019), June 6-9, Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel, Arlington, Virginia.

The National Space Society‘s annual conference always has many Space Settlement Sessions on the agenda.

**** SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise | Space Studies Institute (SSI) –  Sept 9-10, Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

A renewal of the Space Studies Institute‘s series of conferences:

The Space Settlement Enterprise will be an exciting two-day event featuring some of the space industry’s top thinkers. Nestled alongside history-making exhibits, experts will seek to identify the technological and economic obstacles to space settlement. Panel discussions will cover six major areas:

    • Habitats and Facilities: What do we want to build?
    • Construction: How do we build it?
    • Resources: Where and how do we get the materials?
    • Transport: How do we get there?
    • Life in Space: How do we survive there?
    • Economics: How do we pay for it?

We have structured the event to allow plenty of time for questions and audience interaction. The questions developed at this conference will inform SSI’s research programs over the next few years.

On a recent episode of The Space ShowEd Wright previewed SSI:50 The Space Settlement Enterprise:

**** New Worlds 2019 Space Settlement Conference, Austin, Texas, Nov.15-16, 2019

The annual meeting sponsored by The Earthlight Foundation (ELF) , which is

a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded and incorporated in 2012 to support the expansion of life and humanity beyond the Earth by providing vision, leadership and credibility.

The organization is run by a small core team encompassing broad field expertise relevant to space exploration, settlement, engineering and communications. ELF is minimalist in management structure to remain flexible and drive effective execution.

The Foundation’s mission is to support

the expansion of life and humanity beyond the Earth by creating, catalyzing and managing projects and activities that lead to public inspiration, education and action relating to space exploration and settlement – and to protect and expand the domain of life and humanity on this world by returning and applying the knowledge thus gained.

** Space based solar power has often been cited as a possible economic driver for in-space settlements. Here is a talk by Prof. Sergio Pellegrino of CalTech on the latest results of a multi-year project to develop a plan for space based solar power:

In 1968, Peter Glaser, the father of space solar power, envisaged kilometer-scale space systems comprising solar collectors and transmitting antennas that would beam power to the earth from geostationary orbit, but that dream has remained elusive. Until now. In his talk, Sergio Pellegrino will discuss the Caltech Space Solar Power Project’s pursuit to conceive, design, and demonstrate a scalable vision for a constellation of ultralight, modular spacecraft that collect sunlight, transform it into electrical power, and wirelessly beam that electricity to the earth. The basic module of this future solar power system is a giant coilable structure that elastically deploys after launch into orbit, and is made of paper-thin materials of high stiffness.

Sergio Pellegrino is the Joyce and Kent Kressa Professor of Aerospace and Civil Engineering at Caltech in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Senior Research Scientist; and Co-Director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project.

** A rotating habitat structure in space can provide “spin gravity” to simulate the mass gravity force on earth. Ideally the whole habitat spins and provides an earth-like environment along the inside wall of the structure.

A Bernal Sphere design for an in-space habitat. The structure rotates around the long axis to provide 1g spin gravity. Credits NASA Ames

In a small spacecraft such as a transport ship to Mars, it would not be practical to spin the structure beyond what could provide a small fraction of earth’s 1g. One possible way around this would be for the crew members to periodically undergo rides on a spin table. Detrimental health effects similar to those caused by long term exposure to weightlessness have been seen in subjects undergoing extended bed rest. ESA and NASA are sponsoring a new bed-rest study to test whether periodic rides on a spin table will ameliorate the negative consequences of lying horizontally for months at a time: Testing the value of artificial gravity for astronaut health – ESA

Once a day, a selection of the study’s participants will lie in DLR’s short-arm centrifuge. There they will be spun to encourage blood to flow back towards their feet and allow researchers to understand the potential of artificial gravity in combating the effects of weightlessness.

The intensity of the centrifugal force is able to be adapted to each person according to their size. DLR can also adjust the centre of spin so that subjects are spun around their heads or their chests. Changing the position in this way could have far-reaching consequences for rehabilitation but, as this is a new domain, these consequences are currently unknown.

A number of different experiments will be carried out over the course of the study, looking at cardiovascular function, balance and muscle strength, metabolism and cognitive performance among other factors. Seven of these experiments will be conducted by European-led research groups, with a view to validating the findings on the International Space Station during future missions.

The short-arm centrifuge at the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) :envihab facility in Cologne, Germany will be used during the first joint long-term bedrest rest study commissioned by ESA and US space agency NASA to investigate the potential of artificial gravity in mitigating the effects of spaceflight. The study begins on 25 March 2019 and will run for 89 days. Test subjects will need remain in beds with the head end tilted 6 degrees below horizontal for 60 of these days to simulate the microgravity of space.

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The High Frontier: An Easier Way