Master Planning and Space Architecture for a Moon Village


Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and faculty members of Aerospace and Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and MIT Media Lab, are working on space architecture and master planning strategies for the first full-time human settlement on the Moon. One aspect of ESA’s space exploration efforts in Low Earth Orbit, the Moon and Mars is to aim at “developing new concepts for international exploration activities, encompassing novel cooperation opportunities open to all nations and industrial actors”. The partnership envisions future missions to the lunar surface that will be driven by cooperation and sustainable planning strategies. The “Moon Village” idea presented by the ESA Director General is a vision for an open architecture based on global cooperation among multiple nations and multiple partners combining their various expertise for the common objective of enabling long-term exploration of the lunar surface. Fundamental to achieving this goal will be the establishment of an infrastructure on the Moon, relying on a myriad of architectures and surface system capabilities.As part of this larger effort, a strategic alignment with NASA’s 2018 Strategic Plan to “extend human presence deeper into space and to the Moon for sustainable long-term exploration and utilization” provides an essential paradigm for holistic thinking about humanities future in space. Advancement of new and emerging capabilities supported by commercial expertise, transferring proven technologies toward addressing challenges in space will result in the construction of an early outpost for safe, flexible and efficient human exploration.  Achieving this initial goal would produce operational experience for the planning and extensive development of an eventual sustainable and permanent lunar ecosystem that will support a variety of human activities for scientific exploration, industrial development and commercial initiatives. The “Moon Village” aims to demonstrate the potential of an international private-public partnership to advance human space exploration through cross-disciplinary cooperation. This paper presents a holistic approach to planning lunar development, centered on the need for singular surface habitation units, designed as adaptive multi-functional modules that will enable and support versatile surface operations. Multi-functional structural concepts, optimized for performance, safety, and utility, leverage emerging technologies including a combination of structural pressurized vessels, regolith structures for radiation shielding, and adaptive infrastructure planning strategies. Located on the edge of Shackleton crater near the lunar south pole, the development maximizes In-Situ Resource Utilization by proximity to presumed ice deposits and solar energy potential, using high elevation locations with long periods of continuous solar irradiation. Phasing strategies are explored for evaluating the evolutionary steps of the settlement to anticipate future ISRU-based experimental and construction activities. Only by expanding on the capabilities and the cooperation of both commercial and government entities can we truly address large and micro scale-architectural systems for human settlements beyond Earth.

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