Chicago architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has signed a memorandum of collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA) to expand research into long-term Moon habitation.
SOM has worked with the ESA since 2018 on the concept of a "Moon Village". This would be the first permanent settlement on the lunar surface, and is earmarked for the rim of Shackleton Crater near the south pole.
SOM is masterplanning, designing and engineering the settlement and the ESA is providing expertise, along with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Astronautics.
One focus of work is the settlement’s "habitat modules". These are four-level structures that can house four to six people, and come with laboratories and a robotic control station. The design combines 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.
When finished, the study will be made public.
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, commented: "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."
Image courtesy of SOM/Slashcube GmbH