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A shelter for space exploration inside the lava of the Moon and Mars

Students and educators at the Wilson School of Design at Quantlin Polytechnic University in Richmond, Canada, have created a special shelter for astronauts that could be used on future missions to the moon and Mars.

The shelter is intended for use within “British lava tubes”, hollow tubes that form after an eruption, and are ideal protection for astronauts exploring space.

Richmond News reported that the Echo shelter in Iceland will be tested in late July, and will also be presented at the 2021 International Astronautical Congress in Dubai.

The concept is to build a habitat with living and working space for a crew of three on two experimental missions to be used inside lava tubes found on the Moon and Mars.

The shelter was invited by the “Euro Moon Mars” group, which includes the European Space Agency, and the challenge was developed by the Icelandic group “Chel-Ace”, where students and a professor of the university spent seven weeks designing the project and building two prototypes that they displayed remotely on The Chill-Ace team, with the development of a third concept prototype built on the team’s work as well.

The Echo shelter is cylindrical in shape with one side door, weighs less than 30 kilograms and provides about 40 cubic meters of living space to accommodate the crew. This, it was reported, uses inflatable struts and shock rope posts for the structure and can be deployed within two hours. It is also constructed from a durable, breathable “Tyvek” membrane, a material chosen because it is light and economical.

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Outsourced equipment companies contributed specialized materials, while a design company contributed its expertise in design, materials and construction techniques. The design will be presented in a paper submitted to a “Workshop on Earth-Isotopes for Planetary Exploration” at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, part of the Universities Space Research Association.