Pangaea-X Moon base
Credit: ESA–A. Romeo

 

Future extraterrestrial romps by humans on the Moon can get a lunar leg up by training on Lanzarote, part of the Canary Islands. A European Space Agency (ESA) test campaign combines geology and space exploration with high-tech equipment.

The Pangaea geology field course is called Pangaea-X.

Moon-targeted experiments

For example, the week-long dry-run includes an experiment that ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will carry out next year but this time from the International Space Station. The intent is to take Moon-targeted operations out into space.

Communications delays are to be included in the campaign. Astronauts operating rovers on the surface of the Moon, for example, must contend with low-quality links and delays in space.

Rover driving

Over the course of the week ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, scientists, operations experts and engineers will work side-by-side on eight experiments and technology demonstrations to advance European know-how of human and robotic mission operations.

From Lanzarote, Matthias will drive a rover located at ESA’s main technology centre in The Netherlands.

Habitat modules are seen beside ‘garages’ for rovers, with an adjacent launch site. Note the robotic vehicles on the surface, proceeding with base construction.
Credit: RegoLight, visualization: Liquifer Systems Group, 2018

A team of scientists will advise Matthias on the most interesting samples from a scientific point of view. He will use a tool that integrates real-time positioning, data sharing, voice chat and much more.

3D printing

Meanwhile, a new ESA-led project is investigating the ways that 3D printing could be used to create and run a habitat on the Moon, reducing logistical dependency on Earth.

Everything from building materials to solar panels, equipment and tools to clothes, even nutrients and food ingredients can potentially be 3D printed.

The aim of 3D printing on the Moon would be to ‘live off the land’ as much as possible, by printing as many structures, items and spares out of lunar regolith as possible, or by using and reusing materials brought for the mission, rather than continuously relying on the long, expensive supply line from Earth.

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