Meet The Experiment
The soda-can-sized experiment will be the first of its kind on the moon
What Is It?
LunaDome is an experimental payload which is being integrated on the Team Indus lunar lander for flight to the moon in March 2018 (find out more about Team Indus here). The LunaDome experiment creates and maintains a habitable environment in an inflatable dome on the lunar surface using a source of compressed air. Since the moon is a hostile environment with no atmosphere, life cannot survive unassisted. On earth, we are exposed to very specific conditions so if we were to become a multi-planetary species in the future, we must first understand how to create habitats within which life can survive.
The parameters to which we are designing are ambitious but if we succeed in sustaining them, LunaDome could easily sustain life.
Our experiment will be active for a maximum of 14 earth days (or one lunar day) on the lunar surface. During this time we will be measuring the conditions in the dome environment and sending the data back to earth via the Lunar Lander. The outcome of our experiment will help us understand whether we can scale a similar system up to provide settlements for humans.
How The Idea Evolved
Having spent our placement year working on aircraft life support systems, the team decided to design our own system for use on the moon. Soon, space tourism will open up to the mass market. A number of companies are planning to offer orbital trips around the earth and the moon, however there are no plans to land there. We believe this experiment could help us take the next step.
NASA estimate the cost of flying to the moon is $2 million per kg of mass. Inflatable technology allows us to save mass and volume (therefore cost) transporting these systems to the moon without compromise on the working volume once deployed.
How It Works
LunaDome will be secured to the lower deck of the lunar lander with the flexible dome stowed into its “transportation” state pre-launch. The 600kg spacecraft (containing LunaDome, 2 rovers and 12 other payloads) will then be launched on a PSLV rocket, being exposed to extreme forces and vibrations until it escapes the atmosphere. It will then be deployed to embark on its 384,000 km journey completing 2 orbits around the earth, accelerating to a speed of 10.5 km per second then completing 4 successively smaller orbits around the moon, soft-landing at Mare Imbrium ready for the lunar dawn.
Upon landing, the spacecraft’s computer will send an “enable” signal to LunaDome, initiating the experiment. After performing some initial checks, the main valve will open, allowing the compressed air stored in the canister to escape into the dome. As it inflates, a pressure sensor will take rapid readings, sending the data to a microcontroller. When the dome reaches atmospheric conditions, the controller will tell the actuator to close the valve.
Once the correct conditions have been reached, solar radiation and leakage will cause the air pressure and temperature to fluctuate to the edge of the design parameters. The conditions will therefore be constantly monitored with pneumatic and thermal control systems driving the conditions back to a habitable level for the duration of the experiment. This data will be fed back to the computer on the lander and sent back to earth for analysis.
Follow our progress