Moon habitat index

An impression of the proposed Moon Village

US-based architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has agreed to expand initial research into long-term Moon habitation after signing a memorandum of collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA).

Since 2018 SOM has partnered with the ESA to create a concept for a Moon Village. The intention is that the village could be the first permanent settlement on the lunar surface.

Leading the planning phase, SOM is tasked with designing and engineering the settlement while the ESA provides its expertise, alongside the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Astronautics.

The settlement will be designed to withstand the extreme conditions of a lunar environment, with a central focus on self-sufficiency and resiliency.

A likely spot for the base could be the rim of Shackleton Crater near the south pole.

The site at the South Pole on the Moon receives near-continuous daylight throughout the lunar year, to help the settlement harness energy and set up the required life support systems, while in situ resource utilisation (ISRU) experiments could generate useful elements using the Moon’s natural resources.

Water-ice deposits nearby could be extracted to produce breathable air and rocket propellant for transportation and industrial activities. Clusters of modules would be connected to enable easy mobility between structures, with communications towers located on the highest ridges of the terrain.

Part of the settlement could include ’habitat modules’, which are structures, four levels high, that can each house four to six people. The habitats could also include their own laboratories and robotic control stations.

The design is expected to combine a rigid composite frame and an inflatable structural shell. Clusters of modules would be connected together, with communications towers located on the highest ridges of the terrain.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Paris last week, Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the ESA’s director general, said, “The cooperation between ESA and a global company such as SOM is a very good example of the spirit of the Moon Village concept: an alliance between private and public, space and non-space entities that will enable going forward to the Moon in an inclusive and sustainable manner.”

Colin Koop, SOM’s design partner, added, “Our partnership with ESA represents a new way of approaching the industry’s most complex problems. Together, we are creating a new kind of architecture – one that can sustain human activity in a place that was, up until now, considered uninhabitable.”

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