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Guest: Dr. Haym Benaroya, Rohith Dronadula; Topics: Rohith's thesis concept of a hybrid lunar inflatable structure, lunar habs, designs, TRLs, rocket payload constraints, robotic development, human space labor, Rutgers aerospace engineering program and online classes.
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We welcomed back Dr. Haym Benaroya, later joined by his student Rohith Droinadula, to discuss Rohith's Master's Thesis regarding a hybrid lunar inflatable structure. There are links to Rohith's and Haym's paper on our blog so do check it out. Dr. Benaroya started the discussion with an introduction to the basics regarding the hybrid lunar structure. About 25 minutes into the program, Rohith called to further discussion detail his hybrid lunar structure concept. Prior to his call, Dr. Benaroya spent time talking about the umbrella shape, the material to be used to make it, robotic construction, the size constraints which were determined by the size of the payload per each rocket that could be used to take it to the Moon. Dr. Benaroya also talked about automatic deployment and inflation on the Moon, landing accuracy, even the later on potential of putting a structure in a lunar lava tube. When asked about artificial gravity, he said there would be no spinning or AG. As for materials, he talked about Kevlar as a main product. He did list some of the dimensions of the planned hybrid structure.
Rohith called to further describe and talk about his hybrid structure which he said would enable autonomous deployment, thus no lava tube deployment in the early years. He said it would be about 16 meters in diameter with an 8 or 9 meter height. When asked about this by a listener, once again he said they were constrained by the size of a payload that the rocket could take to the Moon. I asked Rohith if he thought this would be affordable le for a private company or more so for a government project. He had much to say on affordability but for the initial years and early deployment both Haym and Rohith said it would be more suitable for a government project.
Our two guests received several email questions. Carolyn in Denver asked about windows in the structure which was meant for human occupation. Listen to what Dr. Benaroya said about windows, especially the part about light. Another email came from a listener John wanting to know if the structure would resist being hit by micrometeorites. Dr. Benaroya said yes, both Rohith and him explained the amount of regolith to go on top of the structure for both radiation protection and resistance to micrometeorite hits. Additional topics addressed by our two guests focused on the design, power, water, and everything else for a full outpost as opposed to a structure here and there. Listen to how Haym laid out the design and building of an early stage lunar outpost plus the timeline for more fully developing it into a fully staffed and ongoing outpost or more. At one point Haym suggested the TRL for the fully functioning and designed outpost was not so complicated but we were not there yet. He did suggest different TRL levels for different stages of lunar outpost habitats today so note what he said and what he described. Also pay attention to what he said was the job (so to speak) of SpaceX and Blue Origin vis a vis their rockets.
Another of Haym's students, Mykhalo (Mike), emailed us to ask more specifically when he thought the lunar habitat technology will be advanced and reliable enough to be successfully deployed on the moon and will it be by NASA or by a private venture. I added the TRL part of the question to the end of his email which is what prompted Haym to start discussing the different TRLs applicable to this project. As for timelines, Haym thought maybe for the initial round of habitat short term occupancy, R&D and related, a ten year time line seemed reasonable. More advanced designs and longer stays would likely come after in the second ten year period. Don't miss all of what he had to say on this topic.
Later in the discussion Haym said that inflatables were hard to model. Listen to him tell us why this is so. He once again talked rocket constraints for payload size and said we need to have a better idea from both Blue Origin and SpaceX as to the rockets that will be used for going to and developing the Moon. As we were moving toward the end of our discussion, Dr. B was asked about his background in mechanical engineering and the aerospace engineering classes and programs being taught at Rutgers. He talked about a big overlap with aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. Listener Jill then sent Haym a note asking about the interior design, human and psychological factors. Haym said all this is important and would be considered at the appropriate time with the appropriate experts in the field. The engineering folks were not planning to do everything without guidance from additional experts and consultants. Ben from upstate NY asked if our guest was confident that this time we would go back to the Moon with humans to stay. Don't miss how Haym answered this question. Our guest was then asked if he thought the Moon might be dismissed or delays in favor of going to Mars first. He did not think that likely but listen to all of what Dr. B had to say regarding this question.
One listener asked our guest if he thought the militarization of the Moon might overwhelm commercial lunar development and back it out or hold it to a minimum. As you will hear Haym say, this was a complicated question. Don't miss all of what our guest said but for the most part he did not think it would happen but it was a risk. As for militarization, he saw more of a chance of that happening in LEO. Again, listen to all of what our guest had to say on this topic.
We next turned to summarizing today's discussion. We talked about the adding of an aerospace engineering accredited program to their department plus the popularity of his lunar habit development class. Much was said on these end of the program topics so don't over look them plus the concluding comments from today's guest.
Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show. You can reach either guest through me or for Dr. Benaroya, you can find his email address at his Rutgers faculty page. I believe you can reach Rohith through me or through Dr. Benaroya.