eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge 2015

xhab1

xhab1 ( photo credit: Space Grant)

The eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) 2015 Academic Innovation Challenge is a university-level competition involving hands-on design, research, development, and manufacture of functional prototypical subsystems  for space habitats and deep space exploration missions. The Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) Exploration Augmentation Module (EAM) project will offer multiple X-Hab awards of $10k – $20k each.

NASA will  benefit from the challenge by sponsoring the development of innovative concepts and technologies from universities, which will result in innovative ideas and solutions that could be applied to exploration.

University teams will design and produce functional products of interest to the EAM project according to their interests and expertise. The prototypes produced by the university teams may be integrated onto existing NASA-built operational prototypes. Universities may collaborate together on a project team.

For more information, see: http://www.spacegrant.org/xhab

Sub-Arctic Biodome: Prototype for Space Settlement?

EOS logoThe Earth Organisation for Sustainability (EOS) is building a geodesic biodome near the edge of the Arctic Circle, with the goal of self-sufficient food production. EOS has received an European Union grant of 34,000 €  delivered by URnära, for construction materials and initial wages, and is working with Green Free Will.

Galileo Ground Station Inaugurated in the Arctic 2

Galileo Ground Station, Esrange Space Centre, Kiruna, Sweden

The EOS is developing both technology and social systems for self-sufficent communities of the future. So the Biodome can provide lessons for developing space settlements, such as on Mars. Umeå is in Northern Sweden, just a few hundred kilometres from the Esrange Space Center in Kiruna. Though Umeå is not as far north as the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station near Resolute, Canada, sunlight is in short supply much of the year, and temperatures can get as cold as -38C (-36 F).

EOS biodome

Miniature model of Biodome frame

The Biodome will simulate an entire eco-system, with an artificial river floor filled with small aquatic animals (for aquaponics), and a plant bed where vegetables, fruits and beans will be grown. A computerised regulation system will adjust climate conditions, atmosphere, bacteria levels, nitrate levels and water levels, to maintain a dynamic equilibrium.

EOS is also exploring new social and economic systems to further enhance the sustainability of future communities. Energy accounting is being developed to ensure equitable, durable utilisation of resources, while a somewhat libertarian “holonic” system of governance helps to maximise the freedom of inhabitants. Working with extremely limited resources (at least initially) while maximising individual freedom will certainly be a significant challenge for space settlements.

MDRS Mars station

Mars Desert Research Station with greenhouse

This begs the question of further opportunities for synergy between space settlement and sustainability activists. Both communities are working towards developing small-scale self-sufficient prototype communities on Earth. They may look a lot different, but share a great deal in their aims.

EOS blog post on Biodome: http://eoshorizon.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/the-biodome-project-2014/

EOS website: http://eoslife.eu/