When I walked into the Bioastronautics High Bay in the Aerospace Engineering wing at CU Boulder, I could immediately tell that I was not in your standard academic lab. Directly in front of me was an 11-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide, towering silver structure that I later learned is nicknamed the “tin can.” Emily Matula, a Bioastronautics graduate student in the lab, informs me that this is a lunar habitat mockup meant to study different living configurations for astronauts.
“It’s definitely the most impressive and imposing part of the lab,” quipped Matula as she showed me around. Matula explains to me that this lunar habitat mockup is the work of approximately 20 graduate students. Each year, students work on similar large-scale projects, recruiting test subjects from around the University to give them feedback on what it’s like to complete different tasks that an astronaut might perform in that space (e.g. eating a meal or exercising.)