Instead of trekking back to a landing module every few hours, future lunar astronauts could be spending the night in this cutting-edge tent that can fit neatly in the back of your average rover.
According to Popular Science, a team of aerospace engineers at MIT have designed a lightweight, packable, inflatable habitat that will include all the creature comforts necessary to avoid certain death on the moon. The egg-shaped “tent” would include life support systems (i.e. oxygen, water and food), carbon dioxide scrubbers, temperature control, a reflective shield (for deadly solar rays) and a roll-out solar panel to recharge the habitat.
The module folds out large enough for two astronauts to comfortably chill out for the night, but packs up to the size of your average refrigerator. Not exactly the smallest thing in the world, but still tight enough to fit in the back of a rover for some all-day lunar exploration. The shelter would be framed with inflatable tubes made of silicone-coated fabric that has already been tested on the Mars rover missions (specifically in the landing bags). In total, the shelter would include 425 cubic feet of habitable space. Not The Ritz, but still not bad for the moon.
The research project holds a ton of promise, but there are still a few kinks that need to be figured out. The biggest involves moon dust, which collects on astronauts' suits and shoes. It’s electrostatically charged, which makes it very sticky (it’s also sharp), meaning the pod would likely need to include a divider to separate the undressing zone from the sleeping quarters. Air filters could also be used to clean that dangerous dirt out of the habitat, but that aspect remains just an idea for the moment.
The obvious benefit to tech like this is that it would allow astronauts to venture more than a few hours away from the landing module, and could potentially enable much larger exploratory missions (assuming we ever send humans back to the moon, of course).
(Via Popular Science)