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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#147 - Space Habitats Part 5 - on the Moon and Mars

This week we talk about an early Astronomer and Physicist Sarah Whiting, Astronauts attaching docking adapters, the last ever Delta IV Single booster, Europa Clipper, Ancient Moon tales, Moon and Mars settlements history and future, habitats including the Ice House and MARSHA

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” ~ André Gide

Sarah Frances Whiting (August 23, 1847 – September 12, 1927), American physicist and astronomer

Whiting was appointed Wellesley College first professor of physics. 1876

1880, Whiting started teaching a course on Practical Astronomy at Wellesley

Would visit MIT to pick up th latest ing spectroscopy and Xrays etc.

Whiting helped College trustee Sarah Whitin to establish the Whitin Observatory, of which Whiting became the first director

She was also author of several articles in Popular Astronomy, including:

"Use of Graphs in Teaching Astronomy"

"Use of Drawings in Orthographic Projection and of Globes in Teaching Astronomy",

The last delta 4 single stick booster has flown

Only 4 more delta 4 heavies left then vulcan takes over.

The tale of the bamboo cutter;

Descriptions of a Lunar capital city stretch back to at least the 10th century. The Tale of Princess Kaguya

A mysterious girl called Kaguya, discovered as a baby inside the stalk of a glowing bamboo, by a childless bamboo cutter called Taketori no Okina, he raised her with his wife. She became a beautiful princess. She had many suitors, but none could fulfil her impossible tasks. Eventually, the emperor fell in love with her, she stayed in touch but revealed that she must return to the moon from where she had been spared a celestial war, A flying saucer was sent to collect her and with a blinding light, it took her away.

She left the emperor a message and an elixir of life, but he did not wish to live forever without her, so he gave his soldiers the task of burning both at the nearest mountain to heaven, and the mountain became known as Fuji (after immortality) and the smoke can still be seen rising toward his love.

Also in the Vera Historia, the 2nd-century satirist Lucian of Samosata wrote the first detailed account of a trip to the moon one of the earliest science fiction narratives

Permanent human habitation on a planetary body other than the Earth captures the public imagination like nothing else and is a staple of science fiction. We’ve talked about the habitats in space, but let’s have a look at the two most likely.



In 1638 Bishop John Wilkins wrote A Discourse Concerning a New World and Another Planet, in which he predicted a human colony on the Moon

In 1954, Arthur C. Clarke and RA Smith wrote the seminal The exploration of the Moon, of which I got my copy from the hamilton airforce base in California, via ebay that is, they proposed a lunar base with inflatable modules covered in lunar dust for insulation. spaceships, assembled in low Earth orbit, launched to the Moon, and astronauts would set up the igloo-like modules and an inflatable radio mast. Subsequent steps would include the establishment of a larger, permanent dome; an algae-based air purifier; a nuclear reactor for the provision of power; and electromagnetic cannons to launch cargo and fuel to interplanetary vessels in space

The big ideas and enablers that make this really viable in the quite short term, we might even see this happen in the next decade!!

  • lunar water at the lunar poles discovered difinitvely by Chandrayaan-1 in 2009 . But to what level, is the moon wet or dry? We need to go back as there is not a complete consensus on the amount of water and how easy it is to get at!

  • lunar poles would also avoid the problem of two-week-long lunar nights with continuous sunlight there for solar power

Some ideas


Concept art from NASA showing astronauts entering a lunar outpost. (2006)

Currently the talk of the town is the NASA Lunar outpost, which is the main goal of Artemis.

The project has grown over the years starting with the early military version of Apollo, the LUNEX project from 1958 that was going to construct an Air Force Base underground on the moon, which a year later the Army did their own Project Horizon to test the feasibility of a military base on the moon using Saturn V rockets,

The projected operational date using $6 billion with twelve soldiers was December 1966. Of course, the Nazis had already beaten them to it by several decades, see the Film Iron Sky.

  • 1964: 40 Saturn launches.

  • January 1965: Cargo delivery to the Moon would begin.

  • April 1965: The first manned landing by two men. The build-up and construction phase would continue without interruption until the outpost was ready.

  • November 1966: Outpost manned by a task force of 12 men.

  • This program would have required a total of 61 Saturn A-1 and 88 Saturn A-2 launches up to November 1966. During this period the rockets would transport some 220 tonnes of useful cargo to the Moon.

  • December 1966 through 1967: First operational year of the lunar outpost, with a total of 64 launches scheduled. These would result in an additional 120 tons of useful cargo.

However the current timeline looks nothing like the above, the slightly more believable (barely)

  • Boots on Moon by 2024

  • Settlement by 2028

In 2005 under president George W bush a study was done called the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), known as the Vision for Space Exploration (and unofficially as "Moon, Mars and Beyond" in some aerospace circles, though the specifics of a manned "beyond" program remain vague). Essentially via a long tedious track gave us SLS and Orion

In 2006 Shackleton Crater in the south pole was selected as a great area to set up camp.

sunlit ... 75 to 80 per cent of the time,

adjacent to a permanently dark region in which there are potentially volatiles that we can extract and use. This sunlit area is about the size of the Washington Mall

The Lunar Gateway has become an essential part of this system.

But still there isn’t really any solid-looking plans here, no real architects plans, I can honestly say I think that Arthur C Clarkes Exploration of the Moon seems more fleshed out than the PLAN at the moment.


Jan Worner of ESA Director General announced what surprisingly is a non-ESA project The Moon Village,

The Moon Village is not one project or one program. It says, 'Let's do it together.'

It’s basically a principle rather than real architecture. Its main goal is to set up international partners to utilise the moon "an understanding, not a single facility" Chine is interested, Blue Origin has already built Blue Moon and looking for something o tag it to,

The Moon Village Association, which sounds like something that runs the harvest festival in your local church hall, has 9 principles.

  1. Adhere to applicable International Rules and Agreements dealing with human activities in space, such as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and others4, and conduct peaceful activities with thoughtful consideration and respect for the cultural heritage of humanity on the Moon.

  2. Improve Knowledge of the lunar environment and its use for scientific research.

  3. Reduce the Cost and Risk of transport to and from Earth and the Moon, and within cis-Lunar space.

  4. Support the Economic Development of the lunar community.

  5. Employ or establish and document open-source engineering Standards of broad applicability and/or usefulness.

  6. Develop and build elements / systems that provide Critical Services for lunar missions and activities, such as navigation, communications, power, and resources.

  7. Develop and demonstrate Technology-enabling cost-effective, reliable and safe robotic and human operations on the Moon’s surface and surroundings.

  8. Make available sufficient information to allow global cooperation and engagement involving the general public in the expansion of human activities to, and eventual settlement of the Moon.

  9. Contribute ethically to human society in terms of Culture, the Arts, Education or other fundamentals.

Related to this is International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) is a public forum sponsored by the world's space agencies to develop research and international cooperation towards a world strategy for the exploration and utilization of the Moon, but I can’t find a working website.

Also the Moon Base Alliance, founded by Dutch entrepreneur Henk Rogers, based in Hawaii also featuring Buzz Aldrin and the great YES album artist Roger Dean,

Another society is the Lunar Explorers Society or confusingly Lunex.and the have an equally confusing Artemis project.

One name that crops up a lot is that of Bernard Foing who works at Estec, and was Principal Project Scientist for SMART-1, the first European mission to the Moon, Foing has published over 400 articles, including 160 refereed papers, in lunar and planetary science and exploration, solar/stellar physics and astrobiology.[1] He edited 16 books and organized over 50 international conferences and symposia


Russia is planning to begin building a human colony on the Moon by 2030. Initially, the Moon base would be crewed by no more than four people, with their number later rising to maximum of 12 people, using the Federation space craft and Yenisei super-heavy rocket

Super heavy-lift launch vehicles ordered by height. Country of origin, height in metres and payload capacity to Low Earth Orbit in tonnes are listed on the bottom - Thorenn


Plans to bulid a research station on the moon in the next decade using its new space station to go up on a Long March 5B in 2020.


Lunar building block - ESA

By far the most exciting building material was London-based Foster + Partners architectural firm who proposed in 2013 a building construction 3D-printer technology in January 2013 that would use lunar regolith raw materials to produce lunar building structures while using enclosed inflatable habitats for housing the human occupants inside the hard-shell lunar structures. Overall, these habitats would require only ten percent of the structure mass to be transported from Earth, while using local lunar materials for the other 90 percent of the structure mass. Working with ESA they printed a 1.5 tonne block of regolith based moon block using a 3d printer by Monolite, that normally uses them to make artificial coral reef.


Nuclear Power

  • Nuclear Fission at first, Nasa has been studying this for ages and has designs good to go.

  • The moons potential for Helium 3 mining could be a potential for Nuclear Fussion in the future.


  • Combined with fuel cells this would easily do it and you could have RTG’s as backups too.

Moon Base Economics

  • Supplier of raw materials for space based manufacturing and solar satellites

  • Exporting Helium 3 to earth, enough for 10,000 years of all erath energy -theoretically

  • Propellant from lunar water - Lunar fuel depot!



So onto Mars!

I think it’s fairly obvious we got to practice this stuff on the moon first, I just can’t see a habitat on mars for 20 or 30 years at very best.

So all the same things matter on Mars, radiation protection, lack of gravity, poisonous regolith, extreme cold, energy, except now there is no rescue no easy way back and no easy way there.

But probably the most interesting study when it comes to habitats was done with NASA’s and Bradley University 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge with sponsors including merch genius’ Caterpilla. , one of the NASA 2005 Centennial Challanges

The multi-phase challenge is designed to advance the construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond

Had $3.15million up for grabs.

  • Phase 1, the Design Competition, required teams to submit architectural renderings and was completed in 2015. ($50,000 prize purse) Winner ICE HOUSE

  • Phase 2, the Structural Member Competition, focused on material technologies, requiring teams to create structural components. It was completed in 2017. ($1.1 million prize purse)

  • Phase 3 , the On-Site Habitat Competition, challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats, and has five levels of competition – three construction levels and two virtual levels. For the virtual levels, teams must use Building Information Modeling software to design a habitat that combines allowances for both the structure and systems it must contain. The construction levels challenge the teams to autonomously 3D-print elements of the habitat, culminating with a one-third-scale printed habitat for the final level. ($2 million prize purse)

2015: In Phase 1 the winner was Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office of New York, New York, for their design, Mars Ice House.

  • Located in the Alba Mons in the northern Hemisphere, where there should be an ubunddace of water covered by 30cm of loose regolith!

  • There design is very clever, normally the habitats are buried beneth the peclorate rich regolith, but this one is proudly on the surface, calculating that only a 5cm ice shell can protect agaisnt the radiation. Basically ice is brillinet at stopping radiation while allowing natural light through. Ice possess tensile properties (~2-3 MPa)10 that are, in fact, superior to materials such as brick

  • With lots of natural light! robotic printing of the shell’s surface to create a “Fresnel lens” effect, refracting and concentrating the light within the interior surface of the domed structure

  • large ETFE inflatable windows filled with radiation shielding gas further expand the perceived volume and frame views into the landscape.

  • It’s likely that the “transit habitat” will be many floors vertical stack so, so is the Ice House to assist in orientation and life on the red planet.

  • The ice shell is a series of onion layered domes enclosed by a Dyneema reinforced ETFE membrane (like the Eden Project domes in fact)

  • The outer shell will have the “front yard in it” so will feel like an outside space with then need for a space suit.

  • Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) vent into the interior volume.

  • The Hydroponics surround the living quarters and the excess oxgen is vented into the front yard section

  • Water is collected in it’s gasseous phase (pressure on Mars completely changes how water behaves) and spayed in water forrm from the 3d printing nozzle, where it bcomes ice and starts pringting the structure. AS the interior is under the same pressure as the Shuttle interior 70kPa

  • Aerogel is 3d printed into the gap between Ice shell and inner quarters.

The Robots involved

  • iBo: triple nozzled to print water, fiber and Aerogel in layered rings. It can make and climb the wall as it goes, by printing the ridges that it clings to.

  • WaSiBo: this robot is lowered through the base airlock of the lander into the Martian environment. Once outside, WaSiBo operates in two modes: Foundation-Sinter Mode and Water-Mining Mode. Both modes use the same basic processes, heat/pressure and excavation enabling them to be engineered into a single package


  1. Take off designed for Falcon Heavy or SLS

  2. The Ice house lands on the surface, in the process the thrusters will actually excavate the surface exposing the ice underneath just like MArs Phoenix did in 2008!!

  3. Wasibo drop, deployed to mine subsurface ice and build a new foundation

  4. reservoir and hose deploy, the clever way that Wasibo uses phase change physics on the moon means it can keep the dust out of the system and build a reservoir of water for the ice house really efficienlty.

  5. Wasibo starts sintering the habitat foundation,

  6. Inflates the ETFE membrane precision made on earth

  7. deploys airlocks also integrated and precision made on earth

  8. prints the ice, (fibrous silica is added to make it even stronger and loger lasting)

  9. Prints the innershells, from Aeorgel tha insulates the ice so it doesn’t melt and the interior can be warm.

  10. Grows plants,

  11. crew arrive.

2017 Phase 2 The agency awarded first place and a prize of $250,000 to Team Foster + Partners | Branch Technology of Chattanooga, Tennessee, for successfully completing Phase 2, their inovative materials and structure was the strongest.

May 2019 Phase 3

MARSHA like the Ice house it’s not another low-lying dome or confined, half-buried structure but a bright, multi-level, corridor-free home that stands upright on the surface of Mars.

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 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.

AI Space factory design! MARSHA - In an alien environment 54.6 million kilometers away, construction and materials must be rethought entirely

  • Where structures on Earth are designed primarily for gravity and wind, Martian conditions require a structure optimized to handle internal atmospheric pressure and thermal stresses

  • Just like the ICE house the outer shell is an externall front yard type environment that takes all the strain and pressure and the interior can be light and made for human habitation in mind.


  • In collaboration with Techmer PM, they are formulating an innovative mixture of basalt fiber extracted from Martian rock and renewable bioplastic (polylactic acid, or PLA) processed from plants grown on Mars.

  • Both PLA and Basalt fiber have excellent qualities, hence these peeps won the prize.

  • Basalt is as strong as Kevlar

  • Plastic shield radiation, is reusable, like basalt doesn’t expand when heated, is non toxic and non conductive.

  • The cylinder shape is the best shape

  • Very effective pressure vessel

  • Great floor area to surface area ratio (less surface area the less material under lower stresses, so less resource you need to build!)

  • Great Usable floor area to volume and diamter ratio (less volume reduces mechanical loads on systems, and reducing diameter reduces structural stresses))

  • Easier to divide the areas of work by level

  • The most printable pressure vessell

  • Smaller footprint decresses the need for such a big mobility range of the printer!

  • Water fllled skylight!

  • Updated design includes internal clamps with intergrated slidng expansion paltes

  • The windows are designed like cupula windows on the iss.

  • All the airlocks and windows would be manufactured on earth, with magnetic louvres.

  • Located in "Cydonia Mensae" mild north climate with year round sunlight, with subsirface ice, ISRU abundance. Low elevation gives slightly better raditation protection.

Nestled in the woods of upstate New York along the Hudson River, their earth spinoff TERA (terrrestial analogue) is available on a nightly basis for anyone wanting to experience what sustainable life could be like on Mars – and on Earth

Moon fact

John Heywood's Proverbes (1546) coined the famous phrase that "The moon is made of a greene cheese", "greene" meaning "not aged", but Heywood was probably being sarcasticThis week we talk about

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