Space

Origami structures could shelter astronauts on the Moon and Mars

Origami structures could shelt...
The prototype was deployed and tested to extreme conditions on the 20th of April during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA – ESTEC
The prototype was deployed and tested to extreme conditions on the 20th of April during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA – ESTEC
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The prototype was deployed and tested to extreme conditions on the 20th of April during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA – ESTEC
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The prototype was deployed and tested to extreme conditions on the 20th of April during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA – ESTEC
Freeform Origami Software by collaborator Tomohiro Tachi allows the team to sculpt or generate complex origami forms while altering  the crease pattern of the model
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Freeform Origami Software by collaborator Tomohiro Tachi allows the team to sculpt or generate complex origami forms while altering  the crease pattern of the model
A test section of structural origami
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A test section of structural origami
Studio Samira Boon has created a woven self supported origami dome from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc.\
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Studio Samira Boon has created a woven self supported origami dome from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc.\
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A collaborative research team called MoonMars is developing a simple, versatile way of building off-world habitats using origami. Made of high-performance textiles, the origami bases could be self-assembling and able to reconfigure themselves to meet future needs.

Building the first bases on the Moon and Mars will be far from easy. Unlike construction projects on Earth, putting up even prefab habitats on other planets makes deep-sea engineering look like a doddle. It's one thing to assemble something in a shirt-sleeve environment, but in low gravity, a vacuum, and wearing a spacesuit at the end of a logistical pipeline stretching hundreds of millions of miles, it is unimaginably slow, expensive, and difficult.

To make things a bit easier, MoonMars – a collaborative team from the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), ESA-ESTEC, textile architect studio Samira Boon and other research institutions – is experimenting with origami designs using advanced textiles woven with digital processes. Because origami allows for flat sheets to be folded into a bewildering variety of shapes, the idea is to produce flat-pack structures that can be shipped to the Moon or Mars and then assembled by inflation, robots, or built-in actuators.

Studio Samira Boon has created a woven self supported origami dome from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc.\
Studio Samira Boon has created a woven self supported origami dome from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc.\

According to the team, such structures would be light and could be easily altered to provide new sizes and configurations for future requirements. In addition, the nature of origami provides other advantages.

The angled, flat facets of origami would be able to deflect micrometeorites in the same way that angled armor plates on tanks do shrapnel. In addition, the facets can have solar panels mounted on them and then shift their angles throughout the day to achieve the highest efficiency. Also, the facets can change their color and transparency to control the habitat's temperature.

The origami project undertook initial field tests of a prototype entrance tunnel in April, and more ambitious tests are planned for 2019. These include the test of a self-deployable origami habitat on a glacier above Zermatt in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Space Center's IGLUNA project in June, and another test in a lava-tube system in Iceland in September.

A test section of structural origami
A test section of structural origami

"Origami for space architecture promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and applications, providing state-of-the-art production and design methods," says Anna Sitnikova, leader of the MoonMars project. "Habitats enhanced by such structures are temporal and alive as they are able to transform and redefine themselves in resonance with human and environmental factors."

The results of the initial tests will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin.

Source: Europlanet

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2 comments
Grumpyrelic
The word shelter implies protection against the elements. Planets with low amounts of atmosphere lack ionospheric protection from radiation. So I guess the idea of these tents is to hide yourself until you look like you have been it a microwave oven too long. Two things stop us from space travel: The lack of a decent propulsion unit and radiation. We worry about how much radiation we get from riding in aircraft. If an aluminum tube doesn't cut it then a canvas tent won't do any better.
neutrino23
Agreed. This may be ok for storing things on the surface to protect them from dust, but living beings will probably have to live underground on mars to protect themselves from radiation. This assumes they can get there without absorbing too much radiation.