fire signatures in addition to smoke particles in relevant atmospheres and at reduced gravity levels, as well as research on interpretation methods based on computational fire models.

Numerical Fire Modeling. NASA should develop and conduct experiments to provide validation data in relevant atmospheres and at reduced gravity levels.

Explosion Sensors. To identify a potentially explosive environment before explosive conditions are reached, sensors for incipient explosion detection need to be developed. Research to support this technology should address flammability limits under reduced gravity.

Explosion Mitigation Strategies. NASA should develop and test mitigation strategies to engage when potentially explosive conditions are reached. Research is needed on explosion suppression agents and/or methods to remove reactant components from a closed environment under reduced gravity.

Two other important recommendations for fire safety involve the organizational integration of fire safety R&D into operational fire safety for space vehicles and habitats. First, there appears to be no specific office in NASA that is responsible for fire safety per se. While all programs profess to have a high regard for fire safety, there do not appear to be specific personnel with the appropriate fire safety background who oversee the implementation of current fire safety knowledge in space vehicles and habitats. Second, there does not appear to be any specific mechanism for translation of fire safety R&D findings into the design and production of space vehicles and habitats. A NASA office specifically responsible for fire safety in vehicles and habitats would ensure that fire safety systems are based on the latest, best knowledge on fire prevention, detection, suppression, and mitigation. Furthermore, such an office would be able to inform the fire safety R&D community, both within NASA and outside, about specific needs for R&D on fire safety.

Space Resource Extraction, Processing, and Utilization

If humans are to undertake long-duration missions to the surfaces of other planetary bodies, beginning with the Moon and leading to Mars, utilization of local resources, or ISRU, will be an essential element. For reviews of many of the possibilities, see McKay et al.135 and Duke et al.136 For example, a number of modeling studies have demonstrated that, when all system elements are included (excavation, thermal and chemical processing, water electrolysis, product purification, power production, heat rejection, storage, etc.), the amount of oxygen that can be produced in a year from lunar resources exceeds by more than an order of magnitude the mass of equipment that must be brought from Earth to produce oxygen on the Moon. The system that has received the most study would use hydrogen brought from Earth to reduce lunar ilmenite (FeTiO3) in a system in which the hydrogen is recycled and oxygen is the product.137 These types of systems are beneficial to exploration missions because they offset the high cost of transporting equipment or propellant to planetary surfaces by using locally produced materials. They probably are essential for scenarios where permanent human presence is expected. The production of materials from resources found in the environments of the Moon, Mars, or other solid bodies can serve a wide variety of uses.

Initial ISRU applications would likely include propellants (H2, O2, CH4, or other hydrocarbons), energy storage (H2, O2, and thermal mass materials), and life support consumables (H2O, O2, N2). Unprocessed surface material will likely be used for radiation, meteoroid, or thermal shielding, particularly on the Moon. With experience gained from such efforts, more advanced ISRU systems in the future could potentially produce photovoltaic arrays for energy production,138 solid materials for fabrication of spare parts and construction components, materials for radiation shielding, etc. In advanced applications, ISRU may play a role in the construction of pressurized structures for planetary surface operations. The benefits of ISRU derive in part from the fact that relatively small systems can work over long periods of time to produce relatively large amounts of product. The production and use of planetary resources can lead to modified interplanetary and surface architectures, reduced cost, and reduced risk for long-term space exploration. Many of the elements found in some ISRU production systems, such as reactors, electrolyzers, gas purification systems, and filters, are common or similar in ISRU and life support systems.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement