Settlement planned at the south pole of the moon | Polarjournal
A new settlement is planned at the moon’s south pole on the rim of Shackleton Crater. The location offers the advantage of being flooded almost continuously with sunlight for energy generation. (Photo: SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

If the ideas and fantasies of the architects at SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have their way, a research village may soon be built at the moon’s South Pole. “Life Beyond Earth,” a powerful new installation, features the concept of a lunar village brought to life at the initiative of ESA, in collaboration with MIT’s AeroAstro professor and former NASA astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman.

The concept was presented at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia in May 2021. At the edge of the moon’s Shackleton crater, the SOM architects visualized their ideas of the village. The location at the South Pole was chosen considering the nearly continuous sunlight.

Laboratories are available for research. The energy supply is provided by a solar panel array and the modules are each individually connected to the supply. (Photo: SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

The Moon Village would be operated primarily as a research station and is expected to house a range of facilities from sustainability research opportunities to the future prospect of lunar tourism.

Thanks to its proposed location in the south polar region of the moon, the settlement will receive almost continuous daylight throughout the lunar year, allowing it to achieve self-sufficiency by using sunlight to generate energy. Water ice may be found in the shaded interior of the crater to supply the station.

This part of the Moon also harbors a variety of pristine matter that could offer insights into the early history of the solar system as well as the general formation of our larger universe.

The structure of each hub consists primarily of a modular titanium alloy load-bearing frame and a protective exterior. SOM’s architects describe the structure’s design as follows: “The innovative structural design of the modules is a hybrid rigid-soft system consisting of two key elements: a rigid composite frame and an inflatable structural shell that integrates a multi-layer assembly with an environmental protection system.”

Each of the modular lunar buildings will be designed to be four stories and will accommodate 4 to 6 occupants. (Photo: SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

The module’s inflatable design allows it to be compressed for transport by rocket and then inflated to its full size on the Moon. However, unlike previous inflatable designs that focused on structural and mechanical systems, SOM’s solution allows for an open interior that optimizes the living experience.

The combination of a rigid frame and an inflatable structural shell made of foamed polyurethane and double aluminized Mylar for insulation was also chosen by SOM to adapt to internal and external environmental conditions.

The modules of the “Moon Village” are designed in such a way that they can still be transported by rocket. (Photo: SOM-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill)

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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