October 21, 2005
Space Exploration Proposal: Edible Moon Buggy

To save weight on a future moon mission some students are exploring ways to construct an edible moon buggy.

The students task is to make an edible moon buggy. Eating your transportation is probably not always a good idea, admits project leader Walter Smith, at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, US. Neither is devouring anything coated in moon dust for that matter, but for college and middle school students aged 11 or 12, designing edible model rovers serves as a good learning tool, he says.

On the early part of a moon mission astronauts could do travelling with edible lunar rover. But toward the end of the mission they would shift toward working around their base and start eating parts of their rover.

A better way to save weight on food seems obvious though: grow the food while on the moon. Sunlight is not a problem. Though filters against the UV bands might be needed. Genetically engineer algae or other plant species to grow well under lunar conditions under filtered glass. Water would be needed of course. But genetically engineered organisms could process the human wastes of astronauts to get the water and grow food.

If soil which contains substantial amounts of oxyen could be found then only hydrogen would need to be transported to the moon. Research into hydrogen storage for earthbound energy applications may eventually produce better methods of hydrogen transport.

Oxygen from rocks for plants and for human breathing probably won't be a problem. The Hubble Space Telescope recently discovered areas of the moon with rocks rich in oxygen.

The Hubble Space Telescope has detected oxygen in moon minerals that future explorers could use for breathing, to make electricity, and for rocket fuel. Scientists say the findings will help them determine whether the amounts available in the lunar soil will be enough for future astronauts to use.

The orbiting Hubble observatory is usually aimed at extremely distant areas of the universe. But for a few days in August, the U.S. space agency, NASA, pointed it at the moon to look at the landing sites of the Apollo 15 and 17 missions of the early 1970s and a 45-kilometer wide impact crater on a plateau never visited by astronauts.

The Apollo missions had returned rock samples containing an oxygen-bearing mineral called ilmenite. Planetary scientist Mark Robinson of Northwestern University near Chicago says planners of future moon missions want to know if the plateau region contains an equally rich amount of ilmenite.

"All the minerals you find on the moon have oxygen in them, but ilmenite is special in the sense that it is relatively easy to break it apart to get to the oxygen," said Mr. Robinson.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 October 21 01:06 PM  Space Exploration

TheBaldGuy said at July 1, 2007 8:27 PM:

Actually Lunar sunlight *is* a problem. The amount of glass needed to provide adequate insulation is very large. Further, the day/night cycle is, to put it mildly, not in line or anywhere on the plane as Earth's. A 28 day dark/light cycle is not adequate for plants. Even if you shut off light during the lunar day, you'll need a significant amount of energy to provide light during the 14 days of night.
It's more than UV, the intensity of light at the moon is far greater than on Earth's surface - even at it's peak. IIRC the Earth's atmosphere drops the light levels by around 40%.

But genetically engineered organisms could process the human wastes of astronauts to get the water and grow food.

No genetic engineering needed. We already have plants that can do this. They've been around for millennia.

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