Package For Space Travellers: 4G & Water On Moon

Package For Space Travellers: 4G & Water On Moon

In 2018, there were reports of a large saltwater lake found at Mars’ south pole. Now planetary researchers have confirmed its presence, along with 3 more sub-surface water bodies. Even SOFIA has detected water on moon. Meanwhile Nokia’s (NOK) Bell Labs has signed a deal with NASA to set up a 4G network on the moon. Is it time to go to space for your next vacation?

Crux of the Matter

Water Discovered On Moon
Using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), water has been found on the sunlit surface of the Moon, in Clavius Crater. This indicates that water molecules may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to the cold, shadowed places only.

Nokia and NASA
NASA has awarded Nokia’s Bell Labs, a grant of $14.1 million to deploy a 4G cellular network on the moon, in order to support lunar surface communications at greater distances, increased speeds and more reliability than current standards. Nokia plans to partner with spaceflight company, Intuitive Machines for the entire 4G network layout.

NASA’s “Tipping Point” Project
NASA has a 2028 goal to build a moon base and sustain a human presence later on. So it has already dedicated $370 million to lunar innovations including remote power generation, cryogenic freezing, safer landing etc. 4G setup and eventually 5G, is a part of this grant.

Will Moon Have Better Network Than Earth?
Yes, 4G has the potential to work better on the moon due to the absence of trees, buildings, or TV signals, that interfere with the cellular network here. It will be designed to withstand extreme temperature, radiation, and space’s vacuum while staying functional during lunar landings and launches, even with significant vibrations.

So Can Astronauts Tweet Their Lunar Rover Selfies?
Yes, Nokia says astronauts can use its wireless network for controlling moon rovers, real-time navigation over lunar geography, and streaming high-definition videos from space.

Lakes Discovered On Mars
The discovery published by Nature Astronomy was made using radar data from the ESA (European Space Agency)’s Mars-orbiting spacecraft, Mars Express. It followed the detection of a single subsurface lake in the same region in 2018, by using a data set comprising 134 observations from 2012 to 2019.

The Eureka Moment For MARSIS
A radar instrument called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) was being used to probe the planet’s southern polar region when it found bodies of liquid water trapped under more than 1km of Martian ice.

How Does MARSIS Work?
The instrument sends out radio waves, which bounce off layers of material in the planet’s subsurface and surface area. The way this signal is reflected back indicates the type of material that is present at a particular location, like say rock, ice, or water, for example. MARSIS works similar to the glacial lake detection method used on Earth.

What Do We Know About The 4 Lakes?
The lakes are spread out over 75,000 sqkm, an area which is roughly 1/5th the size of Germany. The largest, central lake is 30km wide and is surrounded by 3 smaller lakes, each a few km in size. However, it is yet to be confirmed, whether they are made of water or sludge. The Chinese mission, Tianwen-1 can verify these claims, on the way to Mars, after it launches in February 2021.

  • Apollo 17 was the last manned moon landing that took place in 1972. No manned moon landing has taken place ever since.
  • After the failed soft landing of Chandrayaan 2, ISRO is planning to launch a similar Chandrayaan 3 mission in the second quarter of 2021. It will only include a lander and a rover.
  • Ganymede, Jupiter’s moon, is the largest moon in the Solar System. It is bigger than Mercury.
  • Due to Moon’s weaker gravity than Earth, a Person would weigh about one-sixth (16.5%) of its weight on Earth.
  • Project A119 was a top-secret plan by the United States to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon. Americans were falling behind the space race and this was planned to show the force of the United States and boost the morale of American Scientists.

What Are Space Bricks?

What Are Space Bricks?

A team of scientists from India’s IISc and ISRO has developed a process for making structures on the moon. Their process exploits lunar soil and uses bacteria and guar beans to consolidate the soil into possible brick-like load-bearing structures, or Space Bricks. How did they do it? Can homes be built in space in the future?

Crux of the Matter

How Did They Make Space Bricks?
Some micro-organisms like ”Sporosarcina pasteurii’‘ can produce minerals through metabolic pathways called an ureolytic cycle. Also called biological cementation, they use urea and calcium to form crystals as byproducts of the cycle.

To explore their full potential, Aloke Kumar and his team at IISc teamed up with ISRO scientists Arjun Dey and I Venugopal.

Then What Happened?
They first mixed the bacteria with lunar soil like earth alternative. Then required urea, calcium sources & gum extracted from locally-sourced guar beans (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba). The output generated after a few days of incubation was found to have a vast amount of strength and machinability i.e the ease with which a metal can be cut.

This solves the need for specialised moulds to make a variety of shapes by casting. Additionally, it can be used to make intricate interlocking structures for construction on the moon via such possible brick-like load-bearing structures – Space Bricks.

Cost-Effective Space Structures
As Earth’s non-renewable resources are being used up rapidly, scientists are making efforts to inhabit the moon and other planets in the solar system.

The cost of sending 1 kilogram of regular cement material to outer space is about ₹16 lakhs. These bacteri-guar bricks decreases the overall expenditure.

In fact, after testing different soil samples in Bengaluru, the researchers found another bacteria called ”Bacillus velezensis”, 10x less costly than the originally discovered pasteurii, priced at ₹50,000 per vial.

It is really exciting because it brings two different fields biology and mechanical engineering together.

Aloke Kumar, IISc

Can Space Bricks Help In Building Homes In Space?
The entire process produces a lower carbon footprint as it uses guar gum, extracted from guar seeds instead of cement for support.

The bricks can thus be used for sustainable and inhabitable development both on earth and moon. More variants of such bricks can be made and tested under varied space conditions like moonquakes.

  • Guar gum, extracted from guar beans, has thickening and stabilizing properties useful in food, feed, and industrial applications. It is typically produced as a free-flowing, off-white powder.
  • Space Studies Institute is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1977 by the late Princeton University Professor Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill. The stated mission is to “open the energy and material resources of space for human benefit within our lifetime”.
  • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is a thirteen-part television series written by Carl Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter. It covers a wide range of scientific subjects, including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe. As of 2009, it was still the most widely watched PBS series in the world.