[image via the NYT]
Extraterrestrial architecture has been on my mind more than usual lately, as I’m currently enthralled by Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy and its incredibly well-research speculations on how humans might terraform and build on Mars. The almost unimaginable scale of the martian landscape yields unique architectural responses brought about by both necessity and the creativity of the first 100 colonists. Their early settlements, however, owed a great debt to simple bricks, ancient Roman techniques, and prefabrication. It pleased me, then, to see an article (and the now de rigeur accompanying gorgeous interactive graphic) in The New York Times about the development of and controversy surrounding NASA’s Ares I and Ares V rockets, designed to return American astronauts to the moon – perhaps for an extended stay. While the Ares I will carry the Orion module and its astronauts into orbit, the Ares V is the heavy loader. Like something from a Buckminster Fuller fever-dream, the Ares V will potentially deploy prefabricated lunar habitats and vehicles to the moon’s surface.
[image via the NYT]
In a moment of architectural serendipity, the same day as seeing The New York Times pieces, I came across two lunar-living projects designed for the Saturn V while browsing through More Mobile: Portable Architecture for Today: Mars Cruiser One and Moon Base Two. Both projects are designed by Swiss Architect Andreas Vogler, who taught a course on Aerospace architecture at the University of Technology in Munich and continues to develop ideas for NASA and the European Space Agency with his firm, Architecture and Vision.
I’ve previously written about Architecture and Vision’s Moon Base Two, and inflatable structure designed to be carried aboard the heavy-launch Ares V. And now, thanks to the Times graphic, we can get a better idea of just how this space igloo would actually be transported to moon.
[Moon Base Two deployment diagram]
[Moon Base Two lander module]
Shackleton Crater, located near the Moon’s south pole, is being discussed as a possible location for the new lab because polar sites receive the most light. Lighting will be a crucial component in the success of the project. Sunlight will be needed to provide warmth and power the Base’s integrated solar plant. And much like the buildings in Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy, Moon Base Two will have computer-controlled lighting that is more than utilitarian – it’s a psychological necessity if astronauts (lunar-nauts?) will be living in conditions where a single night can last for up to 14 days. LED lighting that changes color and intensity will be used to simulate the passing of more standard Earth days.
The Mars Cruiser One can also be deployed by a Saturn V rocket. More than just a vehicle for exploring the Moon or Mars, the Cruiser is a pressurized, mobile habitat that can support three explorers for up to twenty days. The multi-purpose living / research space was informed by studies of mobile homes, boats, and aircraft construction. And until space garages become common place, the Mars Cruiser One can conveniently dock with a Moon Base Two airlock. Alternately, it could stand alone and serve as the starting point for a new human settlement – like living in a trailer until your new home is finished.
Will these projects become a reality? It’s hard to say right now. The Ares rockets, part of the larger “Constellation” program, are on track for a 2015 launch, but the Obama administration wants to move the timeline forward a bit. But 2015 really isn’t that far away. If you’re reading this, chances are good that you’ll see some sort of lunar habitat, if not a colony, in your lifetime.
· The Long Countdown [NY Times]
· Comparative Planetology: An Interview with Kim Stanley Robinson [BLDG BLOG]
· From the Earth to the Moon, To Live in a Balloon [Life Without Buildings]