SOM and European Space Agency to continue research into habitats on the moon

January 29, 2020

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a memorandum of collaboration (MoC) to advance Moon Village research. Image © SOM[1]
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have signed a memorandum of collaboration (MoC) to advance Moon Village research.
Image © SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP[2] (SOM) and the European Space Agency[3] (ESA) are expanding the scope of their existing research into long-term habitation on the moon.

Since 2018, SOM has been in partnership with ESA and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology[4] (MIT) to develop the Moon Village idea, a multi-partner, open concept, as a framework for the first permanent settlement on the lunar surface. The large-scale, integrated development is envisioned near the moon’s south pole, with large habitation modules with inflatable structural shell technology emplaced on the rim of Shackleton Crater.

The newly signed memorandum of collaboration (MoC) will build on this existing partnership by introducing a new study within ESA’s Concurrent Design Facility (CDF), to focus on the development of the settlement’s habitat modules. When complete, the study will be made public, with the goal of inspiring technological developments related to long-term and sustainable exploration of the lunar and Martian surfaces.

The settlement is designed to withstand the extreme conditions of a lunar environment, with a central focus on self-sufficiency and resiliency. The south pole site 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, as well as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments, which could generate useful elements using the moon’s natural resources. Nearby water-ice deposits 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.

The pressurized, four-level habitat modules can house four to six people and feature systems such as environmental controls and life support systems, logistics management, scientific workstations, and a robotic control station. The structural design is a hybrid system comprising two key elements: a rigid composite frame composed of three columns and an inflatable structural shell. Unlike other inflatable designs, which center structural and mechanical systems, this solution creates a free, open interior.

The Moon Village concept is distinctly interdisciplinary. SOM is master-planning, designing, and engineering the settlement, ESA is providing expertise from the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) and the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) and from its headquarters, and faculty members from MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics are providing expertise.

Endnotes:
  1. [Image]: https://www.constructionspecifier.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1580114122_27jan20-moonvillage-earth-som-slashcube-gmbh-01.jpg
  2. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP: http://www.som.com/
  3. European Space Agency: https://www.esa.int/
  4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: http://web.mit.edu/

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