UTSA tapped by NASA to help build homes on the moon and Mars

University of Texas at San Antonio

Astronauts need to have a place to call "home" in the moon and Mars. UTSA will be part of a multi-university partnership to make those extraterrestrial smart homes possible. Credit Photo courtesy of UTSA

Astronauts need to have a place to call “home” in the moon and Mars. UTSA will be part of a multi-university partnership to make those extraterrestrial smart homes possible. Credit Photo courtesy of UTSA

(San Antonio, Apr. 10, 2019) — The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has been tapped by The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to join a team that will build homes for human habitation on the moon and Mars. As exploration missions beyond Earth become more ambitious, NASA must consider new technologies to keep habitats operational when they are not occupied by astronauts.

To help achieve this, NASA has selected UTSA to be part of its Space Technology Research Institutes (STRIs) to advance space smart habitat designs, or SmartHab. This research will complement other NASA projects to help mature the mission architecture needed to meet challenging exploration goals.

UTSA, led by Arturo Montoya, an associate professor with dual appointments in the Department of Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, will join NASA’s Resilient ExtraTerrestrial Habitats institute (RETHi). The RETHi seeks to design and operate resilient deep space habitats that can adapt, absorb and rapidly recover from expected and unexpected disruptions. It plans to leverage expertise in civil infrastructure with advanced technology fields such as modular and autonomous robotics and hybrid simulation.

As part of the RETHi program, UTSA will receive financial support to build computational models including the algorithms needed to build resilient moon and Mars future homes.

“This grant will allow UTSA, and its students, to play a key role in solving the challenge of deep space habitation, while building partnerships with NASA facilities, universities and industries,” said Montoya.

Through an integrated effort, RETHi will mature deep space habitats that can operate in both crewed and un-crewed configurations. The institute plans to create a cyber-physical prototype testbed of physical and virtual models to develop, deploy and validate different capabilities. The RETHI team includes Purdue University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard.

“Our participation in efforts to map a reality of extraterrestrial habitation as part of this initiative helps to support President Eighmy’s vision for UTSA as a great multicultural discovery enterprise and being world-engaged,” said UTSA’s JoAnn Browning, Dean of the College of Engineering. “This grant also illustrates our emphasis on multi-disciplinary research, as it brings together the fields of autonomous robotics, advanced computing methods for hybrid simulation, and sustainable civil infrastructure design.”

In addition to RETHI, NASA will also fund a second institute: Habitats Optimized for Missions of Exploration (HOME). HOME’s design approach for deep space habitats relies on proven engineering and risk analysis and on emergent technologies to enable resilient, autonomous and self-maintained habitats for human explorers.

UTSA with other collaborators will be funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering, new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions. As one of the top research universities in the country, UTSA along with the new institutes could receive as much as $15 million over a five-year period.

###

From EurekAlert!

35 thoughts on “UTSA tapped by NASA to help build homes on the moon and Mars

  1. Astronomers on Mars will need homes, like Los Alamos . The very long baseline interferometry of the Event Horizon Telescope , EHT , is only a forerunner to a Mars orbit interferometer. With such an aperture, one can only imagine what will be found.

  2. Our daily EurekAlert! nonsense I suppose.

    Now we have a new definition of a “model home”. Probably it will predict that you can avoid the colder than Antarctica temperatures by increasing CO2.

    What’s next? Jimmy Carter building affordable housing for Mars’ homeless? Mars Habitat for Humanity

    • As part of the RETHi program, UTSA will receive financial support to build computational models including the algorithms needed to build resilient moon and Mars future homes.

      • Com’on Rich, if we hadn’t taken a 40 year break from space ops, because of lefty neglect of these developments, we would already have this done and more. Every marvel accomplished in the 1960s was done with computerization strength of a modern pocket calculator. Moreover, we would be very much more advanced in technology – probably have climate models that worked, showing the lack of alarming developments.

      • Why not just modify shipping containers into habitable shelters? You need something really heavy to stay put on the moon.
        Oh, wait…

    • What’s next? Jimmy Carter building affordable housing for Mars’ homeless? Mars Habitat for Humanity

      An barn-raising (air-tight of course) by Amish Mars’ settlers.

  3. The suicidal volunteers need to immediately find caves as apposed to building shelters. Maybe we need to transport materials to construct polar/heat entrances to provide a breathable transition. Perhaps we can share the living quarters on the aliens that actually reside there…..just sayin. (sarc)

    • Yes. Except for astronomy, communications and entry/exit, it all needs to be underground. It should be deep enough and strong enough to withstand a nearby once in a 500 year meteor strike. Once we set up a facility it’s likely to be used for a very long time. Look for deep caves.

  4. Not possible. No matter what the dreamers say it will not be possible.

    This rock we live on is the only rock we will live on. I say live on, not have been on. It’s not only US it’s the entire boisphere we live in. It cannot be replicated off world.

    • “This rock we live on is the only rock we will live on. I say live on, not have been on. It’s not only US it’s the entire boisphere we live in. It cannot be replicated off world.”

      I beg to differ. Humans can create all the conditions required to flourish in space by building artificial habitats that provide “gravity” equivalent to the gravity on the surface of the Earth; and provide radiation protection and can be built large enough to acomodate millions of human beings.

      The future of the human race will be large habitats in space. They are a short-term insurace policy for the human race and a final refuge when the Sun cooks the Earth and it is no more.

      • What you say is true however, there are simply too many variables at play. We have the technology now, so why are we not in space (For longer than 18 months)? On the moon? On our way to Mars? We can’t exist in any of these spaces unless we evolve in these spaces. Simply trying to replicate Earth in any space other than Earth is futile.

        • “What you say is true however, there are simply too many variables at play. We have the technology now, so why are we not in space”

          The simple answer is it is still too expensive to get to low-Earth orbit. The private sector is working on reducing these costs. When the cost of a ticket to low-Earth orbit is lowered to an affordable rate, then you will see the Earth/Moon space open up to human activity in a big way.

      • “Tom Abbott April 11, 2019 at 5:57 am

        I beg to differ. Humans can create all the conditions required to flourish in space by building artificial habitats that provide “gravity” equivalent to the gravity on the surface of the Earth; and provide radiation protection and can be built large enough to acomodate{sic} millions of human beings.”

        Certainly not before mankind successfully builds a proven self supporting sustainable biosphere here on Earth.
        To date, all attempts have failed.

        And that is for biospheres that did not require artificial atmosphere, food supply, waste handling, heat and cooling, artificial gravity, lighting, soil for plants, ample supply of clean water, protection from high energy particles, etc. etc.

        Ramping failed installations up to successful intra-stellar habitations requires more than belief or opinion. Along with decades of testing and certification.

  5. Well, if we are going back to the Moon in five years, I guess we ought to get busy designing habitats to live in.

    Private companies like Bigelow and Hilton have some ideas along these lines.

    A new industry is being created.

  6. This all just fantasy. Spreading federal dollars around to keep folks employed. Not much better than the GND social engineering with OPM.
    Since NASA is apparently into fantasy, they should bring Stanford’s CE renewable energy guru on board. Prof Mark Jacobson can advise them on lunar wind turbine placement and solar PV panel layouts. I’m sure with his kind of “civil” engineering, they can get to 100% renewable power design for those lunar structures with no problem.
    Jacobson can run his MonteCarlo analyses to show how 14 days of no sun and forver no wind can be worked around. Besides, if the power goes out, what’s the worse that could happen?
    To design their medical testing setup for the medical infirmary, they can bring that Silicon Valley whiz Elizabeth Holmes on-board. She’s very inventive I hear.

  7. From the article (my bold):

    As part of the RETHi program, UTSA will receive financial support to build computational models including the algorithms needed to build resilient moon and Mars future homes.

    […]

    Through an integrated effort, RETHi will mature deep space habitats that can operate in both crewed and un-crewed configurations. The institute plans to create a cyber-physical prototype testbed of physical and virtual models to develop, deploy and validate different capabilities. The RETHI team includes Purdue University, the University of Connecticut, and Harvard.

    Can’t they just build something and then throw everything plus the kitchen sink at it? How did we manage to escape the stone age without computers?

    Anyhow, I’m glad to see that there is at least some allowance for actually making something to test. I suppose the grant is “$40 million for computer modeling plus a $500 dollar gift card for Home Depot when you are ready to build a model.”

  8. Call me a troglodyte, but I say we will never have functioning, productive human outposts on Mars. It could possibly happen on the moon on some small scale, but to no useful end. It would essentially be a p r stunt… like the international space station is now. And don’t try to tell me about all the amazing science being conducted on it.

    • “Call me a troglodyte, but I say we will never have functioning, productive human outposts on Mars. It could possibly happen on the moon on some small scale, but to no useful end. It would essentially be a p r stunt… like the international space station is now. And don’t try to tell me about all the amazing science being conducted on it.”

      I don’t think we will have permanent human populations on the Moon or Mars. I think we will send humans to both for research purposes, and will rotate the crews periodically for health reasons.

      I do think putting humans on the Moon and Mars will be useful to science, and in the case of the Moon will assist humans in developing the Earth/Moon system and assist in sending humans to Mars..

      As for the International Space Station being a pr stunt, I would argue with that, although I saw an advertisement a few days ago recruiting people to lay in bed for long periods of time to simulate weightlessness in space, and I’m wondering why we need to simulate it when astronauts are currently experiencing it in real time.

      We’ve had twins, one on Earth and one in space, tested after a long space stay to see if they could find differences. So I’m not sure what this Earth-bound test is going to accomplish, but maybe it will do something useful. It’s a little puzzling but I didn’t dig into it too deeply either.

  9. I think I’d rather wait for the privately-built homes, not the ones controlled by NASA bureaucrats. NASA is not what it used to be. These days, it’s all about splitting money among partners and maintaining headcount.

  10. Its official – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine delivered an enthusiastic keynote address to the Colorado Springs Space Symposium on April 9, where he stated:
    “This time we will go to the Moon to stay. And another thing that is unique is that, when we go to the Moon, we will go with a coalition of international partners.”

    What a refreshing change from Obama killing off NASA!

  11. If you want to do actual science, then missions need to be unmanned.

    If you want to fire up people’s imagination to generate political support for spending massive amounts of money, then you need a person to represent mankind as an explorer. In this case, science is a secondary consideration as the vast majority of the efforts are made just keeping the explorer alive. You’ll expend 10 times the effort and do 1/10th the amount of science.

    That’s the reality of it.

  12. I hope these are all green, organic, biodynamic, vegan, social justice, zero emission homes. Don’t want the entire solar system burning up in a climate conflagration like what’s happening here on Earth according to AOC and others.

  13. Taking a look at the structures for human habitation in Antarctica would be a logical start, then add pressurization and air purifying capabilities. Of course, some structures would be greenhouses and poultry coops for food production, if you can make enough water, you could farm shrimp or carp using plant based feed.
    The ISS is providing much of the research into the viability of currently proposed methods.

  14. I get the romanticism, but NASA should have figured out by now that escaping one gravity well just to get trapped within another for no profitable reason is barking mad.

    Instead, attention should be focused on tumbling pigeon habitat designs for deep space.

  15. Sounds nice, but … Why? To what purpose? To what benefit?
    I don’t mean don’t explore space but spend the big bucks on exploring our oceans. That would probably be of greater, tangible benefit.
    But I’m just a Layman. That is just my opinion.

Comments are closed.