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Energy to live on the Moon!
A location of near continuous sunlight on the Moon is near the poles; perhaps the best place to install solar panels The fourth and final Web Seminar on the topic of Lunar Exploration was held on Tuesday, November 28, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenters were Dr. Anuradha Koratkar, Associate Research Scientist at the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology (GEST) Center, and her student assistants Mr. Albert Hill and Mr. Brendan Shaughnessy. The presentation focused on the energy required to support a sustainable habitat on the Moon. NASA plans to send astronauts to live and work on the Moon in the next decade.

Thirty-five (35) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

In this presentation educators learned about the need for energy to sustain a habitat on the Moon. When astronauts return to the Moon, they will live and work there for a period of six months. The crew size will include 4-6 astronauts. How much energy will they need to survive? How will that energy be generated? Of all the options available for a self-sustaining habitat on the Moon, solar power seems like the best option available. Since the Moon's day and night cycle is 14 days long, scientists have been searching for a location on the Moon where solar panels can be placed and receive near continuous sunlight as the Moon travels through space. Such a location exists near the lunar poles, and coincidentally, it is in these polar regions where astronomers believe water, in the form of ice, may be available on the Moon.

The Biosphere 2 project is an example of a sustainable habitat

Web Seminar participants also learned about energy sources and sinks and about on-going habitat research taking place at the Biosphere II site in Arizona. Participants asked many questions and shared their ideas about energy consumption of a typical family of four, and their best guess on how much energy a crew of six astronauts will consume per month on the Moon. At the end of the program, all participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide titled: A Close-Up Look at the Red Planet, grades 5-8.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "I teach both environmental science and astronomy. It connects these well through the discussions of a sustainable habitat on the moon. The information presented included things that I can modify and bring back to my students."
  • "We have been discussing what an ecosystem is. Having students design a sustainable system for the moon will help them understand what is needed for an ecosystem."
  • "I enjoyed some of the simple math calculations I was able to do. The information was good, as were tonight's presenters."
  • "Anuradha has done a nice job - by this time (fourth presentation) she is a pro. I appreciate that she is willing to spend late nights (1 AM in Germany) presenting science content."

Thanks to the participants and the presenters for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


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Underwritten in part by NASA