As space agencies prepare to return people to the moon, top engineers design a tunnel boring machine to dig underground colonies for the first lunar dwellers.
"Space is becoming a passion for many people again, and there are discussions about returning to the moon, this time to stay," said US-Iranian expert Jamal Rostami to AFP at this year's World Tunnel Congress in Naples. 1
But the harsh conditions on the lunar surface mean that in buildings that maintain the atmospheric pressure in a vacuum, people must be shielded from radiation and cold temperatures.
They must also be protected from meteor attacks.
"Imagine something in size o If my fist comes like a stone at a speed of 10-12 kilometers per second, it can hit anything and destroy it immediately," Rostami said at the meeting in southern Italy.
"So any plan A habitat on the moon is to build a ditch, create a structure and cover it with a kind of regolith that is the earth on the moon.
" Our idea is to with a mechanism that we already use, actually starting underground a tunnel boring machine to create a through opening to create habitats or to connect the colonies together, "he added.
Analysis of the images The lunar surface shows lava tubes that can accommodate large cities underground, said Rostami, director of the Earth Mechanics Institute at the US Colorado School of Mines.
But it will not be an easy task to bring something as huge as a tunnel boring machine up.
"Weight is a problem, it's quite expensive to get one kilogram of material from the earth to the moon, our machines have hundreds of tons of mass, so it's not feasible to take the machines as they are," he said he.
"We need to change the design, where all components are optimized, weigh much less, and perform better."
The machines also need to be fully automated and repairs must be kept to a minimum, a particular challenge in dealing with tools that see wear and tear from wear of rocks and debris.
It also raises the question of how to drive them.
Using a four-meter diameter machine that requires around 2,000 kilowatts of power, experts He argues that it is possible to use small nuclear power plants for a lunar version, he said.
By 2050, 1,000 people could live in space – either in orbit or on the moon – according to the American United Launch Alliance I estimate that this first space exploration will cost $ 2.7 trillion becomes.
Despite rumors that the first inhabitants of space have used mining tools like Moon Tunneling Machines (LTBM) to dig for valuable minerals, Rostami said their priorities would be to even gain something more valuable.
"We are not talking about gold, the first goal is water, we know that water is trapped on the lunar masts, where the temperature is only -190 degrees Celsius."
"One of the ideas being discussed is to heat the part in permanent shade and the water evaporate water and trapping, "said Rostami, who has launched the world's first master's degree and a doctorate in space resource engineering in Colorado.
"Another idea is to break it down and take it to a facility to defrost it, and the material extracted with the water can then be used for 3D printing of buildings in the colonies," he said.
One thing is for sure: The future LTBM will first undergo rigorous pilot trials on Earth, "because once they are deployed, that's it.". It will be very difficult to make drastic changes. "
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Lunar tunnel engineers excited by boring lunar colonies (2019, 10 May)
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