Invent a water recovery system for a lunar space station
Countries all over the world are preparing to send humans far into space, beyond the International Space Station (ISS). The Moon, nearly 400,000 kilometres away, will soon be orbited by a new space station: the Lunar Gateway. The station will be made up of different modules for scientific research and human habitation, and four astronauts will be able to live and work there for up to three months at a time. During their mission, they will occasionally venture onto the surface of the Moon to carry out scientific experiments and test new technologies.
Much like the ISS, the Lunar Gateway will require a cutting‑edge water recovery system to continuously provide the astronauts with drinking water during their time on board. The system will have to be completely autonomous so that it can operate even when no astronauts are present.
You are part of a team of four people: an engineer, a scientist, an architect and an astronaut. You've been hired to develop a water recovery system for the upcoming Lunar Gateway. You need to think of the materials you'll use to build a system to recycle, reuse or filter water as efficiently as possible.
Anything goes! You can use all sorts of materials to build your system.
- Rocks (Do you know which ones are the best for filtration?)
- Fabric or paper (Coffee filters hold coffee while letting water through!)
- Various containers (Glass? Plastic? Fabric? Metal?)
- Water... Yes, you need a bit of water to start! But where will it come from?
In contrast with missions to the ISS, which is only 400 kilometres from Earth, a mission to the Moon presents significant challenges:
- Long-term missions due to distance
- Astronauts are exposed to health risks due to the lack of protection from Earth's atmosphere
- Slow communication
Deep-space crews and missions will therefore require more independence and autonomy. Astronauts will have to travel lightly to be able to bring everything they need for the three‑month stay.
Things to keep in mind
To get started, consider the following questions when imagining your water recovery system:
- What exactly do you want your system to do? Will it reuse water transported from Earth? Will it filter water found elsewhere, such as on the Moon?
- How much water will it provide to astronauts?
- How big will your system be and how much will it weigh?
- How long will it take to produce drinking water?
- What are some problems you could encounter when building your system?
- What will be the tasks and responsibilities of each member of the team?
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