TOKYO – Scientists at the Space Colonies Research Center in Tokyo were working on Tuesday on the designs for human settlements on the moon, which they hope will be complete by 2030.
Established in November 2017 and headed by Japan’s first female astronaut, Chiaki Mukai, the center at the Tokyo University of Science is developing the technology that would allow the survival of human beings in space.
Mukai, 66, said people living on Earth’s natural satellite is “a very promising and very realistic situation” given its proximity – it takes just three days to reach the Moon. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency is also exploring the possibility of establishing human colonies in space.
Around 30 Japanese scientists at the RCSC are looking for alternatives to the International Space Station, whose operations are scheduled to end within the next decade.
“If we think about it, the ISS is nothing more than a ‘campsite’ to which we have to carry everything we need from Earth – water, food, clothes, anything except solar panels. If we go to the Moon, we will need to use resources and make everything efficient while recycling,” reflects Mukai.
The scientists are trying to resolve major problems such as the design of a habitable space with the capacity to produce and store energy, with the technology to recycle air and water, and in which food can be grown.
The project will build a capsule-shaped cabin built in tunnels which have been discovered beneath the Moon’s surface – an ideal location to protect against the effects of radiation.
“In future, we picture several of these living modules connected together,” as well as facilities on the surface for short stays and tourism purposes, Mukai said.
To ensure the viability of these living spaces, the scientists are focusing on the use of thermoelectricity.
The huge swing in temperatures inside and outside the colony (ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Celsius inside to between 90 and 130 C outside during the day and -170 to -230 C at night) is ideal for the use of a thermoelectric device, which can create voltage through the conversion of temperature differences.
Despite the progress researchers are making, they still need to develop systems to maintain constant temperatures and to choose a suitable material for the conversion device, Professor Tsutomu Iida said.
The use of thermoelectric power is limited because the materials that are generally used are toxic, and many of them have been banned in places such as the European Union.
The Japanese team is looking into magnesium silicide, an organic compound with abundant natural reserves and a decade-long lifespan, which could increase in better conditions in space, the scientists estimate.
The scientists are also testing hydroponic growing solutions inside a small greenhouse in order to be able to sustainably produce food on the Moon.