Review: Building Habitats on the Moon
by Jeff Foust
|Benaroya also includes in the book several interviews with engineers, architects, and other space exploration experts. Some of these interviews provide good insights into habitat development.|
Benaroya starts the book with an overview of why humans should go to the Moon, a slightly odd approach given that, if you’re reading a book about building habitats on the Moon, you’re likely already convinced of the utility of human missions there. From there, he examines the issues associated with the lunar environment—temperature, radiation, and the qualities of the regolith—that affect developments there. Later chapters discuss the kinds of habitats that can be built, including both rigid and inflatable structures, and more detailed engineering issues associated with their design.
Much of the book follows a standard approach for an engineering text; some of the book’s final chapters, in fact, are fairly technical, their pages filled with equations. However, Benaroya takes an unusual approach with some other aspects of the book. Many chapters, for example, end with a bulleted list of quotes. They are mostly about lunar exploration, including from transcripts from the Apollo missions, but their relevance to each chapter’s subject matter isn’t always clear.
Benaroya also includes in the book several interviews with engineers, architects, and other space exploration experts. Some of these interviews provide good insights into habitat development. For example, David Cadogan, director of engineering and product development at ILC Dover, describes how his company looked at how to keep lunar regolith from contaminating and damaging spacesuits, as they did on the Apollo missions. His company’s approach, taken from experience working with the military in a “chem-bio warfare environment,” was to cover the spacesuit with an outer layer made of Tyvek that would protect the suit, which could then be disposed before entering the airlock at the end of the EVA. This “pretty simple idea,” he said, was set aside in favor of more complex efforts to make the suits themselves more durable.
Other interviews, though, tended to be rambling, and even a little contentious. Space architect Marc Cohen, in one response to a question, criticizes Benaroya for using the passive voice and “bureaucratese” in a question. “It is unbecoming as a scholar and a gentleman,” he says. While (perhaps unintentionally) entertaining, it illustrates that these interviews should have been edited down to limit themselves to the key issues regarding building lunar habitats.
Those idiosyncrasies aside, Building Habitats on the Moon does offer a good overview of the issues associated with building lunar habitats. That includes an examination of studies and concepts developed all the way to the beginning of the Space Age for lunar bases. They serve as a reminder that studies of lunar bases are nothing new—and, given that none of those lunar base concepts became reality, also offer a cautionary note about the latest plans to return humans to the Moon.