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NASA Seeks Ideas For Lunar Surface Systems

By | June 2, 2008

      NASA will release details of a broad agency announcement seeking ideas for buildings to be constructed on the moon, with those details being provided in a meeting in Washington, D.C., beginning at 9 a.m. ET Friday.

      Registration for the meeting will close at 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, or earlier if all seats have been filled before that deadline.

      This is part of the NASA vision for space exploration, which includes first visits to the moon starting in 2020, then establishment of a manned moon outpost, and then a manned mission to Mars.

      NASA will release a broad agency announcement soliciting lunar surface systems concept study proposals to help the agency develop plans for a return to the moon by 2020.

      Currently, the space agency is pressing forward with the Constellation Program, which will develop the Orion space capsule crew exploration vehicle, the Ares rocket that will lift Orion into space, and the Altair vehicle that will transport astronauts down to the dusty lunar landscape.

      To establish the manned outpost on the moon, NASA astronauts will require various buildings to shelter them on lunar expeditions, such as living quarters and areas for conducting scientific experiments and other work, and facilities for growing food. Mobility and communications systems would be needed as well.

      Life on the moon would be markedly different for humans, versus life on Earth. For example, objects, including people, weigh far less on the moon. A person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth would weigh just 16.6 pounds on the moon, perhaps eliminating the need for a strict diet.

      The NASA briefing session will be held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters building, at 1615 H Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. The building is located on the opposite side of Lafayette Park from the North Portico (front door) of the White House.

      To register, go to on the Web.

      NASA is soliciting concept studies in several topic areas. The duration for the studies is six months or less. The announcement will be open for approximately 30 days. Proposals are due July 7. NASA expects to award study contracts by mid-August.

      A total of $2 million is available for awards. The maximum individual award amount is $250,000. The contract performance period is six months or less.

      There are just 250 seats available for the event, and attendance is limited to no more than three people per company / university / institution.

      Some of the topics to be explained to contractors and others attending would include:

      • Alternative packaging options for items going to the moon
      • Minimum habitat functional capabilities needed for the humans who would live there
      • Innovative avionics architectures and sparing strategies
      • Long-term lunar energy storage system concepts
      • Alternative software architecture development approaches
      • Lunar regolith (loose soil) moving methods and techniques

      An organization may submit proposals for no more than three of those topics.

      NASA is in the process of defining functional capabilities and concepts for architectural elements to provide core capabilities.

      Over the past six to nine months, the NASA Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ESMD), whose primary mission is to develop new space transportation and human exploration capabilities, has engaged with industry for input on the lunar architecture. The forum for this collaboration has been through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) Space Enterprise Council.

      NASA would like to build on the expertise gained over 50 years of spaceflight by soliciting the best ideas and concepts from universities, aerospace and non-aerospace companies in thespace exploration effort.

      By addressing the full USCC membership, NASA is attempting to reach entities not traditionally engaged with the space industry, but who have applicable expertise and innovative ideas that can be incorporated into lunar surface systems planning.

      This Broad Area Announcement (BAA) for concept studies, and opportunities to follow, is intended to stimulate innovative ideas and provide a mechanism for these ideas to inform the lunar architecture planning.

      The BAA is targeted for release on Friday, but not later than next Monday. The BAA will be posted on as well.

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