If the US space agency “NASA” is working to return to the moon, this time it intends to stay there, as its “Artemis” program aims to establish the first place of residence for humans on an astronomical body other than Earth, but this project is characterized by many difficulties, including the provision of means of subsistence. and mobility, and the space industry is currently seeking to develop the necessary technological means to achieve this goal.
“It’s like the World Cup in engineering,” said Neil Davis, who works for the American company “Denetex”, which unveiled a prototype of its lunar rover during a space symposium held last month in Colorado Springs.
However, it may be necessary to wait for the “Artemis 7” mission and the tasks that follow it to establish “permanent housing on the surface” of the moon, according to what NASA Associate Administrator Jim Frey said during the symposium. However, these tasks will not be accomplished before the 2030s.
Free pointed out that the base will initially consist of several sites with the aim of diversifying scientific exploration sites and making landing operations on the moon easier.
connection and energy
Despite this seemingly distant goal, companies are racing to manufacture the necessary tools for missions to the moon.
“The first stage is communications,” said Joe Landon, president of Crescent Space, a company recently established by Lockheed Martin that specializes in industries related to lunar missions. “If a person thinks of moving to a new apartment, the first thing he will do is Connect his phone and the Internet.
With a group of two satellites to launch, the company wants to become the one that provides the moon with the Internet and the Global Positioning System (GPS), and thus relieves the NASA network, which is threatened by its high temperature due to the various upcoming space missions, including those of its own.
Landon said that the market value of lunar-related industries will be about $100 billion over the next ten years.
NASA has signed a $57.2 million contract to develop the technology needed to build roads, landing strips and homes on the Moon.
The second topic that companies seek to develop is energy.-
“Astrobotic” (220 employees) is one of the three companies chosen by NASA to develop vertical solar panels, and at the south pole of the moon, which is the intended destination because of the presence of ice water in it, the sun only rises in a limited way only above the horizon, and its rays are therefore horizontal.-
Mike Provenzano, responsible for lunar equipment, explained that the 18-meter-high Astrobotic panels will be connected to several kilometers of cables, and these panels can be dismantled and replaced if necessary.
For the scientific missions of the astronauts, NASA asked the actors in the field to create an open vehicle that can accommodate two people, to be ready in 2028, and unlike the mobile robots that were used in the Apollo missions, the new vehicle should be self-driving in missions in which astronauts do not participate Space, which means that it remains operational during the lunar nights, which may last for two weeks, with temperatures that may reach about 170 degrees Celsius below zero.
Several companies have begun working on this vehicle. Lockheed Martin is benefiting from General Motors’ experience in electric cars and off-road vehicles, and Dyntex, a subsidiary of the giant Lidus group, has entered into a partnership with NASCAR, which organizes motor racing. in the United States.
Engineer Neil Davis said, “The prototype, which has a top speed of 15 kilometers per hour, will include a robotic arm and braided metal tires, designed to have good grip, especially on rocks, but it also contains many openings on the sides so that dust does not accumulate in them.”
Lunar dust poses a great challenge because it is not eroded by water or wind, it is an abrasive material almost like glass, and NASA has not yet announced the names of the companies it has chosen, but it is working in the long term with the Japanese Space Agency on a compact vehicle in which it will not be necessary to wear a spacesuit. .
Finally, astronauts will need a home. NASA signed a $57.2 million contract with Aiken, a Texas-based 3D printing company, to develop the technology needed to build roads, landing strips and homes on the moon. Lunar soil is supposed to be used as a material, and other companies such as Lockheed Martin are developing inflatable housing.
“It can be sent in a small package, which is important because the rocket’s capacity is limited,” said Kirk Sherriman, the company’s vice president responsible for all things lunar exploration. “Once inflated, it’s a big size to live and work in.”
This inflatable house contains bedrooms, a kitchen and scientific instruments, all of which are movable.
The idea behind the Artemis program is to prepare for very distant missions, and to convert the lunar base into a Martian base, and Sherriman confirms this idea, saying: “Whatever amounts we have to spend to develop these systems on the moon, we want them to be applicable to missions to Mars.” .