We will in the coming decades establish ourselves in orbit around the Moon, on the surface of Mars, and in a more distant future on moons of Jupiter and Saturn. To get there we must learn how to sustain human life in hostile environments, with limited resupply.
SIMOC [see-mok] is a scalable, interactive model of an off-world community. The model is founded on published data derived from life support and closed ecosystem research at NASA and universities world-wide. The users are invited to design a habitat that sustains human life through a combination of physico-chemical (mechanical) and bioregenerative (living plant) systems, selecting various combinations of crew quarters, greenhouse, food and plants, energy generation and storage, and mission duration.
Sound simple? Science fiction has made it look too easy with airlocks that never require decompression, food materializing out of thin air, and the processing of waste or recycling of air something that happens off-camera. In the real cosmos, living off-world is far more challenging. Finding a balance of machines, plants, and humans is a complex endeavor. The slightest incongruity in waste management, power production, or carbon dioxide scrubbing can result in catastrophic failure, forcing the abandonment of the habitat, or worse.
After 50 years in low Earth orbit, solutions for living in space remain heavily biased toward mechanical systems and resupply missions. This is not a long-term solution if we desire to establish new homes among the stars. SIMOC is a place to experiment, to test theories, and make mistakes—to explore.
The SIMOC team has developed free curricula for grades 5-8 and 9-14, with guidance for both teachers and students. These classroom lessons are aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards, and 21st Century Skills. Give the lessons a try and help build a future for off-world communities throughout the solar system, as well as a greater understanding of our first spaceship—Earth.
If you are new to SIMOC, we encourage you to read the First Time User page at SIMOC.space where you will also find a wealth of information, resources, and educational guidelines.