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Prototypes for space What technology could help humans live on the Moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, 20 students were set the year-long task of coming up with prototypes that could help humans to live there. Swiss and other European teams combined robotics and creative thinking to come up with their futuristic designs.

Project Iglunaexternal link gave the students the task of creating a potential Moon habitat. They had to come up with solutions to the challenges of living in an extreme environment, such as maintaining power supplies, growing food and looking after the health of astronauts. To put their prototypes to the test in the closest possible conditions, they set them up inside a glacier, high above the Swiss town of Zermatt. This enabled them to see how their systems would function in the cold, and at altitude. 

A teamexternal link from the federal technology institute ETH Zurich created a prototype robotic arm that could be programmed to cut blocks out of ice and build them into a wall, creating the framework of a living space for humans. The arm can be fitted with different tools such as a chainsaw or a gripping device. 

Living on the Moon might be more of a dream than a reality for these students, but their ideas also have practical uses for life on Earth. The robotic arm for example could be used on building sites to take over dangerous or even just tedious tasks. 

The project was run by the Swiss Space Centerexternal link, to encourage research into the technology needed for space missions. 

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