Powering a space architect mission to the end of the Earth.
In 2024, Humans will walk on The Moon again.
To secure a contract to design the lunar habitat, award-winning Danish Space Architects – Sebastian Aristotelis and Karl-Johan Sørensen – spent almost a year designing and building their LUNARK habitat with a mission to live in it for one hundred days and test the extreme living conditions in the very first Moon analogue habitat in Arctic Greenland.
Isolated and confined in one of the harshest climates on Earth, they endured temperatures of -30°C, hurricane winds, and hungry polar bears to test the moon habitat. They documented each step of the way for an upcoming documentary film.
Where on Earth is the Moon?
To simulate the cold, isolated, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous environment of the Moon, Sebastian and Karl-Johan chose a remote area of Northern Greenland. Karl-Johan’s brother had recently served in the area with the Danish Navy and remarked that it was “just like vising the Moon”. As well as the physical similarities, the far northern location could also replicate some lunar lighting conditions. The planned destination for the first Moon settlements is the South Pole of the Moon, also known as the Peak of Eternal Light. In Northern Greenland, the Sun does not set for months at a time, so they found a challenging environment to rival the Moon.
Through their affiliation with the European Space Agency (ESA), Sebastian and Karl-Johan’s company, SAGA Space Architects, can bid on contracts and their aim is to secure a sub-contract with the ESA or a large private agency such as SpaceX or Blue Origin. As part of this process the whole LUNARK project, including the arduous 4,000km three-day journey to the location, was filmed in partnership with RED, GoPro and one of the world’s leading production companies. Solid, robust, lightweight and above all reliable equipment would be essential to capture the 100-day endurance mission from start to finish.
Mission critical power.
Key to documenting the entire mission was a reliable power source. SAGA settled on V-Mount Anton/Bauer DIONIC XT batteries to run their expedition gear. Able to provide consistently reliable mobile power with an operating temperature range of -20°C to 60°C (-4°F to 140°F), DIONIC batteries proved the perfect solution. “They performed spectacularly,” Says Sebastian.
We used the Anton/Bauer batteries every day. We setup time lapse project using a DIONIC XT150 for power and it performed – the temperature outside was -25°C, and it ran for 48 hours, incredible! They performed better than any other batteries we had; they were very durable”.
“We used just four DIONIC batteries,” says Sebastian, “two XT90s and two XT150s. I just rotated them around. They always lasted long enough, even filming on the RED Monstro 8k they worked really well. The biggest priority for us was that the batteries performed perfectly in the challenging climate. There were no issues, the indicators worked, the displays worked. And we loved that we could instantly see the remaining run time left on the battery.” adding, “I was filming on a Sony camera with another brand of battery and when we hit the -18°C mark the battery just died. But the DIONIC batteries just kept going, The Anton/Bauer batteries really exceeded our expectations in this mission.”
As well as the V-Mount, the extra USB and P-TAP power output ports on DIONIC batteries were particularly useful. “One thing that we did not predict that became so useful was the USB port on the battery,” Says Sebastian, “It can seem like a trivial thing, but when you are on an expedition having that battery was extremely useful.” With limited space and severe weight restrictions, a battery with multiple options was essential.
You can only bring so much equipment when you are on these missions, having one battery that can be the battery for all our things. We used it to power the satellite phone, and that was the only way to be evacuated. We used it to power our phones, and we used it to make time lapses in the habitat. We could place them in awkward positions and run them for days. Not having to run wires was super important.”
A place for everything.
When two people are living in a 7ft pod space becomes a premium commodity. “Organisation is important,” says Sebastian. “We had to keep everything in its own place and use our storage space wisely. We ended up using our LowePro bags as storage on the walls of the pod to keep everything neat.”
Fast and stable support.
With temperatures reaching below -30°C during the mission Sebastian and Karl-Johan needed to suit up in bulky gear to survive and with winds regularly reaching 90km/h they needed camera supports that were lightweight to handle but tough enough to meet the conditions. “We were bringing one of the best cameras we could dream to work with, so it needed quality support,” says Sebastian, cue Sachtler. “Sachtler flowtech really is the Rolls-Royce of video tripods,” he continues, “I had not had experience with flowtech before; I loved how super stable I was”. Adding, “The wind was difficult, but I felt confident that the flowtech system would support the camera in the wind so I could leave the camera position, do some work then come back and film etc.” With oversized brake releases conveniently at the top of the tripod, flowtech was ideal to use while wearing a survival suit. “The tripod is very easy to use,” says Sebastian, “it did not take me long to get the hand of it, it is very intuitive. I have never used a tripod before, where the panning was 100% super smooth. It will be hard to go back to any other tripod!”
The toughest part of the mission involved a trek up a mountain. “This was an eight-hour walk up a mountain, we were exhausted” says Sebastian, “We were very ambitious and tried to scale large 300m peaks with all of our filming equipment, by the time we got up to the top the sun was coming down again, we only had four hours of sunlight sometimes so was challenging”.
With limited daylight and reduced working time because of the low temperature. Being able to operate equipment quickly and accurately was critical. “The terrain was uneven, so I loved how I could level the head and move around quickly,” says Sebastian, “I could only work the camera for around 20 minutes before having to take a break to warm my hands so the more I could squeeze in the better. The amount of sunlight that we had was reducing smaller and smaller, yet we had to fit in more and more filming – it was important that my gear was fast – every second counts and flowtech delivered.”
Back to ‘Earth’.
Safely back in Denmark, Sebastian, Karl-Johan and the SAGA team are working through all the data recorded by the 76 sensors in the habitat to share with research groups around the world. They are working with Metronome Productions on a four-part series documenting their adventure for Danish TV channel DR2, and the cinematic production scheduled for release in 2021.
More information on Project LUNARK can be found at https://lunark.space/