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Tue July 14 2020

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More research commissioned for Moon Village

27 Jan Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the European Space Agency (ESA) have agreed to expand the scope of their existing research into long-term habitation on the Moon.

Image © SOM & Slashcube GmbH
Image © SOM & Slashcube GmbH

A memorandum of collaboration (MOC) was signed by Colin Koop, design partner at SOM, ESA director general Johann-Dietrich Wörner.

“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,” said Wörner.

Since 2018, SOM has been in partnership with ESA and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop the concept for Moon Village as a framework for the first permanent settlement on the lunar surface. The integrated development is envisioned near the Moon’s South Pole and involve the construction of large habitation modules that use inflatable structural shell technology.

The newly signed MOC will build on this existing partnership by introducing a new study to focus on the development of the settlement’s habitat modules. Upon its completion, 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.

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“Our partnership with ESA represents a new way of approaching the industry’s most complex problems and we’re thrilled to celebrate this milestone, which will take our collaboration to the next level,” said Koop. “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.”

The settlement is designed to withstand the extreme conditions of a lunar environment, with a central focus on self-sufficiency and resiliency. 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. In situ resource utilisation (ISRU) experiments are also planned, which 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.

The pressurised, 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. The design creates an interior that is free and open.

The Moon Village concept is 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 & Astronautics are providing their expertise.

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