France and Italy team up to build Moon habitat

France and Italy team up to build Moon habitat
Artist's concept of the Franco-Italian Moon habitat
Artist's concept of the Franco-Italian Moon habitat
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Artist's concept of the Franco-Italian Moon habitat
Artist's concept of the Franco-Italian Moon habitat

France and Italy are teaming up to build a habitat for future moon bases with Franco-Italian technology company Thales Alenia Space and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) signing a contract to develop the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH) for NASA's Artemis project.

A lot of recent effort has been expended in aerospace circles to develop the means to return astronauts to the Moon and set up a permanent human presence there as part of NASA's Artemis project. However, once the space travelers leave their lander, they are going to need somewhere to hang their space helmets and put their feet up.

Thales Alenia Space has already been working on orbital habitats like ESA's ESPRIT and I-HAB, and Northrop Grumman's HALO, which are intended to support NASA's Lunar Gateway space station designed to support lunar and deep-space crewed missions, so they seem like a logical choice for ASI when it decided to get into building an Italian lunar habitat module.

The MPH is pretty much just a concept at the moment, though the design passed NASA's Element Initiation Review in mid-October and is scheduled to complete a Mission Concept Review (MCR) early next year. Meanwhile, the company has to coordinate with various companies to set up the complex infrastructure and supply chains that will be needed to create the actual habitat.

The concept released looks very simple – essentially, a metal cylinder sitting on articulated legs with solar panels, a communications dish, and a jaunty little ASI flag. However, this has to be more than a shiny glamping cabin with an airlock.

When operational, the MPH will have to be able to protect its inhabitants from intense, relentless cosmic radiation as well as the extreme temperatures on the lunar surface, which range from 250 °F (120 °C) during the day to -208 °F (-130° C) at night or even in the shadows. It will also have to have a life support system that can provide air, water, and stable, livable temperatures for beyond the few days the old Apollo Lunar Module of the Space Race days was capable of.

In addition to this, it will need to be connected to a power supply that can sustain the habitat through the lunar night, not be vulnerable to the clinging and destructive lunar dust, and be compatible with other hardware needed to complete the base.

Decor has not been discussed yet, though given the size of MPH, it will probably be something cozy.

"MPH will mark a historic milestone as the first Italian habitation module to operate on the lunar surface. This is a matter of great pride for our company, which has the unique technical and organizational skills to overcome challenges of this kind," said Franco Fenoglio, Head of human planetary exploration and robotics programs at Thales Alenia Space.

Source: Thales Alenia

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