US Aerospace company Lockheed Martin has unveiled a habitat that humans may live in while orbiting the Moon.
According to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, the habitat measures about 4.5 meters (15 feet) across and 6.7 meters (22 feet) long. It would be used to house four astronauts for between 30 and 60 days while they conduct missions far from Earth.
Lockheed is one of six companies developing such a habitat for NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program. Five other companies including Boeing and Bigelow Aerospace are also taking part.
The $65 million project is seeking to find a way to house humans in a space station orbiting the Moon, called the Deep Space Gateway (DSG). Astronauts will be taken to and from this station, about six times smaller than the Moon, by NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
Lockheed’s idea is like an “RV in deep space” program manager Bill Pratt told the Sentinel. “When you’re in an RV, your table becomes your bed and things are always moving around, so you have to be really efficient with the space,” he said. “That’s a lot of what we are testing here.”
The design is based on the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, a Space Shuttle-era module intended for the International Space Station (ISS) that was never launched. The habitat will be kitted out with equipment for science, sleeping, exercise, working, and more.
The DSG remains in its early stages at the moment, however, with NASA yet to solidly commit to the idea. It has a tentative launch date of some time in the 2020s, following an uncrewed test flight of Orion in 2020 and a crewed flight in 2022.
NASA’s ultimate goal is to use the DSG as a staging outpost for lunar landings and possibly missions to Mars. Its exact purpose is a bit up in the air though, with some questioning whether we need it at all on the way to Mars.
Still, the agency is pushing ahead with its development plans, including the NextSTEP program, which was first announced back in 2016. Earlier this year, they said they hoped to launch the first part of the DSG in 2022, with a habitat launched as soon as 2023.
The final habitat design will be developed based on one of the six designs NASA is currently soliciting. And maybe one day, something similar might be used to house astronauts on the eight-month journey to Mars.