A crazy research idea imagines an inflatable town on the moon.

A crazy research idea imagines an inflatable town on the moon.

A crazy research idea imagines an inflatable town on the moon.

To harness the sun’s energy, the inflatable modules’ greenhouses would employ huge mirrors.

This time, though, humans want to settle permanently on the Moon. The NASA Artemis program encourages a long-term view of human settlement on and around the moon, which has sparked some genuinely original ideas for how to make this a reality.

Researchers envisage a network of interconnected, inflatable greenhouse “villages” that are lit from above by big mirrors. Austrian firm Pneumocell, which creates inflatable structures based on the principles of biological cells, has pitched this concept to the European Space Agency’s Open Space Innovation Platform.

The concept, wittily named PneumoPlanet, proposes establishing a human settlement on the Moon in two zones between the south and north poles. These locations were chosen because of their proximity to permanently shadowed areas (PSRs), where water ice is likely to be present close to the surface, and their favorable lighting conditions. The buildings might serve as greenhouses and as homes for the residents.

Since it will have to be sent from Earth to the Moon, the material used to construct a lunar house must be lightweight. In addition to having a secure airlock, the building must be simple to erect after the necessary components have been delivered to the moon’s surface.

The PneumoPlanet would be sent to the Moon in its deflated form and then inflated once it arrives. It is estimated that the structures would need to be covered by around 16 feet (5 meters) of lunar regolith after they are completely inflated in order to provide thermal isolation between the freezing temperatures on the Moon and the interior of the module and to shield it from cosmic radiation. Fortunately, the Moon is not short of dust.

The buildings themselves would span a distance of about 72 feet (22 meters), and they are planned to be linked to one another by a tunnel system to which more greenhouses may be joined as the habitat expands. The scientists have a concept for a lunar community consisting of around sixteen modules. Each module’s tower would be outfitted with a lightweight silver coated foil mirror for greenhouse lighting. The greenhouse’s artificial crater would track the Sun as it moved across the sky, allowing sunlight to be reflected into the greenhouse through a cone-shaped mirror.

The intention is for the eventual inhabitants of the moon to use these to cultivate their own food. It is expected that “the habitat should run self-sufficiently in the long term by creating and recycling its own oxygen and food within vast greenhouses and virtually solely by utilizing solar irradiation electricity,” as stated by the researchers.

The team plans to construct a prototype on Earth and test it there before sending a fleet of inflatable dwellings to the lunar surface. The inflatable future we have on the Moon is a bright one.

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