Camping is one of the few pastimes that transcends all social boundaries; no matter what your age, race, gender or occupation, camping truly has something to offer for everyone. That’s why Americans spent an incredible 516.6 million days at campsites all across the country in 2013.
But if you’re an astronaut, there traditionally haven’t been very many opportunities for exciting extraterrestrial camping. For the dozen men in the Apollo program who walked on the moon from 1969 to 1972, there was barely any opportunity for downtime at all. Not only were their expeditions extremely stressful, but they were also incredibly short. In fact, the total amount of human time spent on the moon really only amounts to just three days and six hours.
This has all changed, however, with the introduction of a tent designed especially for camping on the moon.
It sounds like science fiction, but this lunar solar tent is just about as real as it gets. According to a June 11 Popular Science article, aerospace engineers at MIT recently designed an inflatable mobile overnight habitat that will allow future moon visitors to spend more time exploring and less time confined to their lunar lander. This lunar solar tent will make the camping MIT experts go down in innovation history.
The pill-shaped “tent,” designed to be used as a sleeping space during lunar exploration, comes equipped with a reflective shield to protect its inhabitants from the sun’s rays. Though it may be used as a lunar solo tent, the structure is capable of housing two people.
Best of all? The inflatable tent is highly portable, designed to fit on a lunar rover and taking up about as much space as half a refrigerator when packed. A lunar 4 tent mission would be a breeze with how light these tents travel. When inflated, the lunar rover’s life support systems provide oxygen, water and food to the tent, while a roll-out solar array powers the tent and recharges the rover’s batteries. With technology like this, commercial solar panels will be a thing of the past in no time.
The MIT engineers say their lunar solar tent will most likely be used for overnight trips when the astronauts’ home base is still their lunar lander. When lunar solo tent setup is as easy as inflating it, this shelter is bound to be useful for anyone in need of temporary shelter. However, a lunar solar tent could also be useful even when permanent moon bases are constructed.
But why design such a habitat if NASA has no plans to put more astronauts on the moon at any point in the future? Samuel Schreiner, one of the MIT engineers, said he thinks a future return to the moon is inevitable.
“Humanity will, at some point, return to the moon,” he said. “At some point in the future, the moon will present an intriguing exploration destination, both for its proximity to the Earth and also for the interesting science and exploration that has yet to be done. The moon is by no means a closed case, and there remain many compelling reasons for humanity to return.”
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