Japanese lunar light farming

1 06 2011

Rendering of a solar array ring on the Moon's surface. (Credit: Shimizu Corporation)

Definition of mixed emotions: Reading an ambitious plan recently released by the Shimizu Corporation of Japan that effectively wields fear of radiation to incentivize lunar colonization for solar power generation. 

Wow.  While I abhor anything that preys upon the irrational fear of nuclear energy, I’m all for the use of solar power.  (I’d like to make the ironic point here that “solar power” is also nuclear energy – the result of a giant nuclear fusion reactor, albeit a natural one.)  I’m also certainly for anything that makes an extraterrestrial business case, and I further endorse any plan that leads us off-world so that we can begin developing the practical know-how to live there.  Throw in the fact that the endeavor would ease stress on the terrestrial ecosystem at the same time, and the idea seems like a home run.

Diagram depicting the lunar power delivery process. (Credit: Shimizu Corporation)

How does it work?  Quite simply.  Called the LUNA RING, solar arrays are to be installed across the lunar surface in an equatorial belt.  Panels on the sun-facing side of the Moon then deliver energy via circumferential transmission lines to laser and microwave transmitters on the Earth-facing side.  These transmitters then beam the energy to receiving stations on the Earth, providing power enough for all.

Sound too good to be true?  Well, it may be.  The problem, like many great ideas, is funding.  The technology is all but completely available to make an attempt, but the capital costs here are incomprehensible.  Yet-to-be-invented tele-robotics plays a major role in construction, (which as I’ve previously mentioned is a very smart move,) and when weighed in combination with untried lunar transport, operations, and manufacturing techniques, equates to a seriously steep R&D curve.

However, this sort of distance planning can demonstrate that the basic elements already exist, which may be exactly what we need to convince  governments and the power industry that the venture is possible.  And, if Japan suddenly puts the economic weight of the government behind a plan like this, e.g., by making a call to return to the Moon and by actually launching small-scale versions of this system, then we should all take note… and I believe we should all participate.

The International Space Station is an endeavor that has and will continue to benefit many.  An international effort to establish renewable lunar-terrestrial power production can benefit everyone, both immediately as well as by developing the skills we’ll need to expand into the cosmos.

Good on ya’, Shimizu Corporation, for thinking big.  Hopefully it’ll catch on.

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Optical illusions to keep Astronauts sane?

20 07 2010

DUS Architects' Unlimited Urban Woods exterior. Credit: Pieter Kers

DUS Architects, a public architecture firm out of Amsterdam, have recently premiered a public art piece called, “Unlimited Urban Woods.”  It’s essentially a forest-in-a-box.  With strategically-placed mirrors, the effect of “true” space – of standing in a vast, ordered orchard of trees – is apparently uncanny.

While intended to provide residents of dense urban areas an easy way to (at least psychologically) feel like they can escape the “urban jungle,” another practical use immediately came to my mind.  There are environments far more cramped and limiting than even the densest centers of glass, steel, and concrete.

For long-term space exploration missions, might something like this be far more effective than “virtual reality,” which forces you to look at some kind of electronic screen and shatters your brain’s acceptance of the illusion?  The trade-off is, of course, space.  One can’t fit a room like this inside a hard drive.  But perhaps it would be worth it?

Something to think about.

DUS Architects' Unlimited Urban Woods interior. Credit: Pieter Kers








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