Moonbase project with algae on board. Awarded to a graduate student of Oceanography UG.

A base on the Moon, made with the help of 3D printing, in which algae play the main role, is the awarded project in the Moon Base Design Contest. The Innspace team which won fourth place includes mgr Ewa Borowska, a graduate of Oceanography at the University of Gdańsk.

The competition, in which teams from all over the world participated, was organised by the Moon Society from the USA. The task was to design a lunar habitat that could be built within the next decade and accommodate 2-3 crews at a time.

According to the Department of Oceanography and Geography, the Polish Innspace group, which has already succeeded in other competitions related to space architecture, consists of Justyna Pelc, Piotr Torchała, Magdalena Łabowska, Beata Suścicka, Łukasz

Sokołowski, Małgorzata Popiel, Hubert Gross, Arkadiusz Kołodziej, Ewa Borowska, Aleksandra Wilczyńska, Michał Garus, Cyrus Sidor and Marcin Zieliński. The partner of the project is Hoya Lens Poland. Their motto is: Life without passion would be boring. Ours is out of this world! It started a few years ago and since then cosmic activities occupy our free time.

The project involved mgr Ewa Borowska, a graduate of the Faculty of Oceanography and Geography at the University of Gdańsk, responsible for life support systems in the entire algae project, and currently a PhD student at the University of Warsaw. - 'For the past three years I have been working with Ewa Borowska on improving life support systems using algae that could potentially be used in lunar bases,' explains dr Filip Pniewski from the Department of Marine Ecosystems Functioning at the Institute of Oceanography UG. It turns out that algae from volcanic areas have the right properties. - 'We are working on natural modifications of algae to obtain better efficiency of oxygen production and sewage treatment, which is extremely important in such bases - adds dr Filip Pniewski. The space environment is challenging for living organisms, and algae are organisms with broad adaptive capabilities. - We are trying to analyze mechanisms allowing them to adapt to diverse environmental conditions, including cosmic radiation,' - explains dr Filip Pniewski.

He adds that the graduate has been awarded a Kosciuszko Fellowship to conduct further research on algae as well as ocean aerosols at NASA Ames Research Center. - 'I am delighted that our alumnus continues to work with us and develop her interests by researching on an international scale.'

The Innspace group also won the title of Gold Winner in the Future Mars Life competition in China and 5th place in the Mars Colony Prize competition in the USA. Five crew members took part in the longest analogue space mission in Poland, organised by the Analog Astronaut Training Centre, spending 6 weeks in the habitat. Some of the solutions were therefore inspired by their thoughts. - 'Our team has exceptional skills. Not only do we have specialists from 14 different fields in our group, such as architecture, robotics, medicine or even law, but a significant proportion of our members have experience as analogue astronauts. So we try to take advantage of the interdisciplinary background and stay on the mission during the implementation of our projects,' - says Justyna Pelc, Innspace group leader.

In the Moon Base Design Contest, the group chose the site near Shackleton Crater, located at the south pole, as the location for the Xors Base habitat. According to the scientists, this is one of the most interesting places on the Moon, because of the places that the Sun illuminates almost all the time, as well as those that the light never reaches. Thanks to this location at the south pole, the habitat has gained access to water, which is trapped in the form of ice on, as well as under, the Moon's surface.

A team of young researchers has designed the Xors Base, which consists of 4 modules that have been tested on the International Space Station. They would be covered with a thick layer of lunar regolith using 3D printing technology, which would provide additional protection against radiation. As the designers point out, building such a base on the Moon for a dozen astronauts requires preparatory missions. As many as 17 flights from Earth would be required to transport the necessary resources and equipment. - 'The most important part in the design of lunar bases are the life support systems and the systems responsible for the safety of the base,' - emphasise Ewa Borowska and Magdalena Łabowska, who were responsible for the environmental part. - 'The most difficult aspect was to design the safety systems to ensure the protection and proper operation of each of the life support systems under all conditions, even in emergencies,' they explain.

Algae are to be an important part of the station's life support systems. A mix of specially selected micro-organisms, including bacteria, cyanobacteria and microalgae, will perform the function of purifying wastewater and other waterborne pollutants. Specially selected microalgae in the form of wall panels will also provide oxygen. Here, to better mimic sunlight, the team used lamps that emit not only visible light but also infrared light and UV-A and UV-B light.

The Innspace group has started work on another base, this time on Venus, which could float at the right height in the atmosphere to protect astronauts from high temperatures.

Project visuals and photos by the team:

Final report:

More information about the team:

Ewa Cichocka/Press Office of University of Gdańsk