What will you eat on the moon, how will you travel?

November 8th, 2008 - 11:17 am ICT by IANS  

ISROChennai, Nov 8 (IANS) Can countries engaged in exploration and exploitation of the moon introduce plant and animal life there? The issue is back in focus as India’s first unmanned lunar spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 gets ready to drop a probe on to the moon’s surface.P. Sreekumar, head of the space astronomy and instrumentation division at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) satellite centre, cautions: “While it is all right to say we will grow food on the moon in a bubble, there is no guarantee that plants and animals from Earth being grown in such greenhouses will not escape outside the bubble.”

According to several science journals, ongoing food growing experiments in the Canadian Arctic and Devon Island are focussed on providing astronauts fresh food outside Earth and to see how to recycle waste to provide oxygen and water. Researchers at Cornell University have even chalked up a 10-day menu of vegetarian meals for a spaceship crew of six.

But “we need to consider what effect radiation will have on this, what kind of mutations will happen to living organisms from Earth on the moon,” Sreekumar told IANS in an interview. “These can be good or bad. We don’t want a science fiction situation out there.”

Human settlement on the moon will depend on the ability not only to grow food and breathable air but also to move around. NASA unveiled a new moon rover Oct 26 that will allow astronauts to travel up to 1,000 km without getting out. It will have large transparent windows.

“The US is designing rovers that can be nuclear-powered. India is not looking at that kind of design,” said Sreekumar.

Chandrayaan-2 will have a proper rover, likely to be Russian-made, landing on the moon.

The astronauts have to handle another problem. “There is a huge amount of dust that arises on the surface of the moon and enters space suits,” Sreekumar pointed out. “It is very difficult to work in the dusty atmosphere.”

“The first impact probe from Chandrayaan-1 will crash on to the lunar surface, raising dust clouds which will be captured by instruments and analysed to see what it is made of.

“Lunar dust can be radioactive. The rovers that will finally have to be used on the moon will have to be like walking airconditioned and dust-proof houses, letting astronauts on the moon work in a completely dust-free atmosphere.”

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