Habitat Lunares is a simulated space base. It’s the only object of its kind in Europe, where conditions of the future base on the Moon or Mars will be simulated. The habitat is located at the former military airport in Pila. It will be opened on July 29, 2017. Four missions are planned for 2017. Usually, they will last two weeks. Analog astronauts will be completely cut off from the outside world. They can leave the hab only to an airplane hangar where the surface of the Moon or Mars will be simulated.
The hab emerges from the night…
In June 2017 Space Garden company started building Lunares habitat. It was created to test the behavior of people in isolation while they are living and working in a very small space. The habitat conditions are designed to be similar to those that future astronauts will find in the Moon or Mars base. Six analog astronauts will live in the hab, that consist only the most important modules: bedroom, kitchen, office, biological laboratory, analytical laboratory, equipment storage, gym and bathroom.
The hab was designed by Leszek Orzechowski, CEO of Space is More company, an architect specialized in space projects. Modules are arranged in a semicircle so that the space between them can also be used as a common place to rest. A dome is mounted over this free space in the center of the hab in a way that it connects all modules together. Then, the hab, is connected by a simulated airlock with the airplane hangar.
Inside you won’t find a flat surface to park a plane. Interior of the hangar simulates the surface of the Moon or Mars with a lot of sand and rocks scattered all over the place. Analog astronauts will have to get dressed up in a space suit to come out “to the surface” of a simulated celestial body.
Why we’ve built the hab?
The idea to build space habitat in Poland was conceived in Agata Kołodziejczyk’s mind. She is Ph.D. and a scientist working for the European Space Agency. “We have created a Moon-Martian habitat in Poland” – says Agata Kołodziejczyk – “because we lack a specialized laboratory for space missions in Poland, not to mention the lack of a national astronaut program. By creating such a simulated space base we can take the first small step towards the next Pole in space. ”
Lunares habitat is a unique world-class scientific laboratory that will conduct research on the perception of time. Analog astronauts will be cut off from the outside world, they will not know what time of day is outside. Researchers will remotely control the habitat lighting so as to elicit the illusion of time passing. It will be done in order to investigate the problem of synchronizing the biological clock in space. Without solving this puzzle we will not be able to live in space. This time illusion research is unique on a global scale.
With the efforts of Aleksander Wasniowski (MD) Space Garden company, as an owner of Lunares habitat, established cooperation with the Medical University of Poznan. Thanks to that, first Laboratory of Extreme Medicine (LEM) was created in Poland.
Habitat Lunares was created by Space Garden company, entirely from private funds, in cooperation with many institutions and individuals. Especially cooperation with the European Space Agency and its specialized branches were important for the construction of the hab. The European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) has built a rover – a remotely controlled robot with a beautiful Polish name “Chrzaszcz” and a machine simulating microgravity for the biological laboratory. The International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG) has donated a scientific apparatus such as a telescope, a spectrometer, and a lunar lander model. Advanced Concept Team (ACT) has provided control of the habitat equipment with a fully automated lighting system and time illumination simulations.
Analog missions in 2017
In 2017 four missions are planned. The first one will start on July 31st, right after the habitat opens. Polish Mars Analogue Simulation 2017 (PMAS 17) is a two-week mission organized by Space Generation Advisory Council. Team members are from all inhabited continents and 30 countries. Analog astronauts come from countries like Puerto Rico (USA), Israel, Spain, France, India and Nigeria.
Next will be the Lunar Expedition 1 mission organized by the Lunares habitat team. It will also be a two-week mission, with Polish only crew, simulating the base operation on the Moon.
In September, the Lunares habitat will host a three-day mission, Moon for Youth for Kids, where children will learn how a space base works and operates. Kids will play roles as astronauts or mission control personnel.
In October Lunares hab will host another two-week mission – ICAres-1 (Innovative Concepts Ares). The mission is conducted in cooperation with the “For Health” Foundation. It will be a trully unique mission because one of the analog Mars astronauts will be handicapped. Yes, accidents can happen also in space.
How the crew and the habitat itself endure this unusual situation?
The first test mission of the habitat, the so-called Expedition Zero, was held in 2016 in Rzepiennik Biskupim near Rzeszow, south of Poland. It was designed to test the functionality of the hab and ways to improve it. The habitat from its initial concept was designed as mobile and modular, so in 2017 it was decided to move it to Pila ( a city in western parts of Poland) to an old military airfield. Why?
The reason was the opportunity to use the hangar, thanks to which analog astronauts could be independent of unpredictable central European weather. Doing EVA’s (Extra Vehicular Activity) inside hangar will also be helpful to isolate analog astronauts from the outside world. Initial name M.A.R.S. (Modular Analog Research Station) was changed to Lunares (Luna – Moon and Ares, Greek synonym of Mars) to highlight the uniqueness of this habitat, which can simulate Lunar and Martian surface and it’s better align with European Space Agency vision of constructing Moon Village in the future.