sciences research that enable the development of these systems include advanced biomedical sensors, physiological monitoring, and health advising capabilities.
Planetary PLSS Technology. PLSS enhancements should include new heat-rejection technologies, variable pressure regulation, rapid cycling amine swing bed for CO2 control, and metabolic temperature swing absorption designs.
A life support system (LSS) is necessary for space vehicles, rovers, and EVA systems. LSS functions include pressure control; atmosphere revitalization (removing carbon dioxide, water vapor, and trace contaminants); temperature and humidity control; waste collection; and fire prevention, detection, and suppression. Fire safety is discussed in the next section of this chapter. Dust mitigation and radiation protection are significant challenges as well. The literature and past scientific and technical recommendations regarding life support systems and technologies are assumed as baseline knowledge for this report. (Please see findings and recommendations on LSS in NRC reports published in 1997, 2000, and 2008.102,103,104) The focus here is on issues relevant for NASA in the next decade to achieve a translational portfolio to enable exploration missions to meet research and operational objectives in the life and physical sciences.
A range of atmosphere compositions are in use or proposed for various aspects of space exploration. Humans can survive only a few minutes without oxygen. Many biological responses are dependent on gas partial pressure, and total gas concentrations influence design tradeoffs in atmosphere selection, especially for space vehicles, habitats, rovers, and EVA systems.105 At sea level on Earth, O2 concentration is 21 percent and the normal O2 partial pressure is 21 kPa. While human physiological needs set the requirement for partial pressure of O2, fire risk increases as the absolute concentration of O2 increases, and the level of engineering difficulty increases as the total pressure increases (for example, on joints and seals). Thus, the selection of the oxygen environment involves a tradeoff between engineering and fire safety issues. The atmosphere inside space vehicles and habitats can range from pure oxygen at low pressure to oxygen/nitrogen mixtures approximating Earth’s atmosphere in both concentration and pressure. The current plan for future space vehicles is to use an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere with up to 34 percent O2. By contrast, the NASA EMU spacesuit supplies the astronaut with 100 percent oxygen, which is why the suit can be operated at a low pressure of 29.6 kPa (4.3 psi). Generation of O2 can itself be a source of fire or explosion, as was the case in the Mir space station fire, so the method of O2 generation should also consider fire safety implications.
Future Life Support System Needs
The LSS must provide adequate thermal control to maintain a suitable internal temperature regardless of internal activities (by astronauts and equipment) and the external environment. The LSS must also remove water vapor released by crew members and collect waste (fluids and solids). The space shuttle and the ISS provide a shirt-sleeve working environment for astronauts and various life support equipment. The ISS uses a pumped single-phase thermal bus to collect waste heat and transport it to heat rejection radiators.106 For permanent settlements on the lunar or martian surface, environmental control of habitat, rovers, and in situ resource processing factories will be required, analogous to terrestrial HVAC systems, as well as a thermal bus.
NASA has appropriately defined LSS capabilities and technologies to meet the objectives for planned missions to the ISS and the Moon, including a new space vehicle, rovers, EVA systems, and surface habitats.107 For missions to the ISS and initial short-duration (approximately 7-day) missions to the Moon, the LSS for space vehicles, including the lunar lander, would include a water loop to supply and store potable water; collection of human waste, which is then discarded; an oxygen loop to store oxygen; and a rapid cycling amine bed to collect CO2, which is then vented overboard. The significantly enhanced LSS for a more permanent lunar presence would include continuous habitation for a crew of perhaps four. The current specifications and tradeoffs for this LSS include moving toward full closure of the water and oxygen loops, which necessitates wastewater recovery, brine