What is the first thing that comes to ones' mind when you think of going to the moon? Reminiscent memories of the monstrous Saturn 5 rockets used to take the Apollo astronauts to our closest celestial neighbour perhaps? Or fantastical ideas of far-fetched future technology ferrying people back and forth in ease and comfort? A visionary space technology start-up in India has their own ideas, and are acting upon them, planning to send a robotic spacecraft to the moon in late 2017, depositing a rover and multiple other scientific payloads on the lunar surface.
Team Indus are a passionate team of driven aerospace engineers based in Bangalore who are taking part in the Google Lunar Xprize, an international competition challenging private companies around the world to land a spacecraft on the moon, deposit a rover that travels at least 500m and sends back to earth high-definition video and pictures. The first team to do so will be given a prize of US$30 million. As part of their planned mission, the company has left a little (and I mean little) room for extra payload. This is where Lab2Moon comes in.
The Lab2Moon challenge
Lab2Moon is another international competition hosted by Team Indus to pit the best student minds worldwide against each other to innovate, design and build an experimental payload that will aid the development of sustainable human presence on the moon. 3000 teams sent in their concepts. 25 were selected to advance to the next stage, where they will be flown out to Bangalore and will present prototypes to a board of judges. 'LunaDome' is three University of Bath aerospace students' entry to the competition, and is in the second round as one of the 25. If it wins the second round, we will have the opportunity to put our designed experiment onto a spacecraft and see it placed on the lunar surface.
Our LunaDome project
Effectively, 'LunaDome' aims to understand the effect of temperature fluctuations experienced on the lunar surface upon a pressure controlled environment. The critical payload specifications state that the experiment has to fit into a space the size of a generic coke can, and weigh no more than 250g. Our design is simple: a compressed CO2 canister will vent CO2 through a bespoke valve, designed and built by us, into a sealed, fixed volume 'dome'. Think shiny inflatable bag. This 'dome' will be filled to atmospheric pressure and controlled so as to maintain this pressure. The temperature variation experienced by the sealed CO2 will be measured and sent back to earth for analysis. The aim is to understand what heating and cooling capacity an environmental control and life support system (an air - con) would have to achieve for a habitable atmosphere on the lunar surface.
Keep track of our progress
This project has opened up a huge opportunity for the University of Bath to showcase its excellent engineering capabilities. We have the privilege of being a part of a movement aimed at inspiring younger generations and getting people excited about space and future technological prospects. Our team has been featured on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Radio Berkshire, and we have a large social media drive to gain exposure and interest in what we are doing (like our Facebook page, subscribe to our YouTube channel or visit our website). Please do find us, follow us and journey with us as we aim to bring humanity to the moon!