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UMaine’s Lunar Habitat, Wireless Sensing Laboratory Opening Friday

UMaine’s Lunar Habitat, Wireless Sensing Laboratory Opening Friday

Contact: Ali Abedi, (207) 581-2231 or abedi@eece.maine.edu

The world’s first inflatable lunar habitat, which was assembled on the University of Maine campus last fall and will be a test site for NASA as it prepares for voyages to the moon, Mars and Venus, will be unveiled Friday with a dedication event starting at 1:30 p.m.

The afternoon will begin with a social event in the lobby of the Engineering & Science Research Building, followed at 2 p.m. with remarks from UMaine officials in the Arthur St. John Hill Auditorium. UMaine electrical and computer engineering Professor Ali Abedi, who is overseeing the Wireless Sensing Laboratory, which houses the lunar habitat, will speak along with College of Engineering Dean Dana Humphrey and George Studor, program director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The group will move at 2:30 p.m. to the Wireless Sensing Laboratory, located next to the Mahaney Dome, for tours of the lunar habitat inflated inside the lab.

UMaine undergraduate and graduate students who helped assemble the habitat and are involved in research there will also be in attendance Friday.

The 3,600-square foot laboratory building contains a 42-foot by 10-foot circular inflatable structure which will be the blueprint for a habitat to be used on future NASA missions to the moon and planets, expected by 2030. The structure, which will be deployed as a human habitat, will have wireless sensors embedded in a layer of its fabric walls to monitor the structural integrity, micrometeroid impacts and internal environmental conditions. The sensors will be able to detect impacts and leaks in the structure. UMaine faculty and students have developed algorithms for relaying data.

Earth-bound applications for the sensor technology include the monitoring of bridges and domes for defense and emergency management.

The wireless sensors do not have batteries, but are instead powered by electromagnetic waves.

The structure has two inhabitable areas. The inner ring has sleeping capacity for up to 15 people, while the outer ring is intended for scientists to conduct experiments and monitor the habitat.

The project funding includes more than $2 million from NASA and another $2.2 million from the Maine Technology Institute. Jackson Lab, the University of Southern Maine, and the Maine Economic Improvement Fund also contributed funding.

Abedi’s UMaine faculty collaborators are Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Mauricio Pereira da Cunha; Professor of Mechanical Engineering Vince Caccese; and Richard C. Hill Professor of Mechanical Engineering Mohsen Shahinpoor, who is the chair of the mechanical engineering department.

Other collaborators are USM Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering Mariusz Jankowski, NASA’s Johnson Space Center and Glenn Research Center, the Challenger Learning Center of Maine, and ILC Dover, a Delaware-based company that designs and develops materials used in space exploration.

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