study explores building inflatable greenhouses on the moon for people to live in

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PneumoPlanet as inflatable greenhouses on the moon

Spaces agencies such as NASA have been researching and funding studies that concern potentially living outside the Earth. A recent one comes from Thomas Herzig – designer and architect of PneumoCell – along with Gabor Bihari and Norbert Kömle where the team delves into the possibility of building inflatable greenhouses on the moon, so people could live in the no-atmosphere, no-oxygen space. The study looks into developing a design called PneumoPlanet for a lunar habitat that sits close to one of the lunar poles and near solar illumination. It also aims to demonstrate the use of available resources to carry out the suggested design. 

The researchers prioritize a self-sufficient design that can withstand time and produce and recycle its own oxygen and food inside the architecture through solar irradiation power. To ground the plan, they propose three features: the architecture should be pre-fabricated ultra-light inflatable structures; the inflatable greenhouses should be covered with lunar soil that is four to five meters thick to shield them from extreme temperature, meteorites, and cosmic radiation; and mirrors facing the sun should be installed to bring sunlight into the greenhouses. The recent research is supported by the European Space Agency, which had seen the study through the team’s submission via the agency’s Open Space Innovation Platform.

study explores building inflatable greenhouses on the moon to live in
images courtesy of Pneumocell

Interconnected inflatable greenhouses to create a village

Austria-based company Pneumocell designs, develops, and produces inflatable structures and objects, so proposing inflatable greenhouses on the moon for residential purposes expands and tests its design principles and portfolio. According to their uploaded study, the moon habitat would include interconnected room modules that help extend the habitat and that the main inflatable greenhouses are tied and built together, so they could create tunnels that help people pass through and attach to the other liveable modules. The team writes that there could be separate working and living spaces too to cater to the working culture on Earth. The team sees creating one greenhouse unit first and then building the other from there.

They suggest calling it a ‘village’ consisting of 16 greenhouses made of double-layered inflatable foils, while the mirror towers to bring in the sun would carry mirrors that are light and consist of carbon fiber tubes. The luna soil the inflatable greenhouses are bathed in acts as thermal isolation between the interiors of the inflatable architecture and its surrounding environment. The team also writes that the mirrors that reflect the sunlight would be projected into an artificial crater at the center of the torus or architecture which could power the inflatable greenhouses.

study explores building inflatable greenhouses on the moon to live in
the study delves into building inflatable greenhouses on the moon, so people could live there

Building a prototype on earth to test and investigate

The team continues writing that ‘the solar illumination power entering a greenhouse unit via the mirrors is about 65 kW during the illumination phases. While this power is necessary to optimally facilitate photosynthesis, it would quickly overheat the greenhouse without an active cooling radiator. In our design, the cooling system operates with ammonia and water as working fluids. In this way, the temperature inside the greenhouse can be kept close to 26°C during the illumination phases.’

Dark periods mean switching off the active cooling and the mirrored roller blinds would cover the windows to limit the heat losses. They suggest TPU or Mylar as the main foil material for the inflatable greenhouses, ‘while for the reinforcement-ropes Dyneema is a suitable material,’ the team adds. They conclude that a logical way to continue their study is to build a prototype on Earth which would be used to test their research and investigate the details that would influence the possibility of building inflatable greenhouses on the moon.

study explores building inflatable greenhouses on the moon to live in
the study plan to develop a design called PneumoPlanet that sits close to one of the lunar poles and near solar illumination

study explores building inflatable greenhouses on the moon to live in
potential layout of the inflatable structure

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