The footprints left on our moon on July 20, 1969 galvanized humanity’s desire to reach out into the cosmos with the hope of one day looking back to our first home among alien skies. Our moon is the first stepping stone on this journey. Already nations and organisations are committing to this challenge, many seeking to establish colonies within mere decades.
Our proposition explores the idea of a two phase lunar colony which utilizes a low Earth orbit assembled hub or “Settler” module that will establish the core facilities for further colony development using native lunar materials. The proposition here also presents an architectural experience that provides a connection to the unique qualities of the lunar experience in spite of the considerable measures that need to be taken to ensure prolonged habitability.
To the Moon!
Beyond the clouds an avid, informed and appropriately equipped person may be able to spot one of the greatest achievements in space explorations: the International Space Station (ISS). This modular structure is the result of countless launches and carefully coordinated cooperation and is able to house a crew for sustained periods of time.
As an analogous structure the Settler Lander will be fabricated on Earth but assembled in low earth orbit like the ISS. Early lunar colonists will likely have only restricted access to lunar resources and will need the Settler Lander to provide and manage all resources brought from Earth, the most notable being air and water. The Settler’s successful landing, aided in no small part by its immense thrusters will mark the beginning of our lunar colony. Here the Settler Lander begins its primary mission: to act as an establishment hub that houses up to 16 colonists and their equipment.
The Settler concept includes a cargo of inflatable ‘scaffolds’ and deployment equipment. Once the Settler Hub is comfortably established the construction of colony can begin in earnest. This is achieved by mounding lunar regolith onto the inflated scaffold to create a barrier to the cosmic radiation and small meteorite impact. Internally a concrete manufactured from local regolith (lunacrete) is formed against the internal walls of the dome to provide additional structure and rigidity.
The most tantalizing image history has given us from the lunar surface is of our home, Earth. For any visitor to the lunar surface the experience of looking back on the fragile beauty of our planet will be memorable and profound. Unfortunately, the high radiation environment on the lunar surface renders the use of windows in a traditional sense hazardous. To overcome this problem, we turned to a very small window which had an incredible impact on the history of the image; the pinhole that gave us the Camera Obscura.
Located at the apex of each dome is a small aperture which, through careful optical manipulation, brings in daylight or projects the image of the lunar sky onto a surface suspended from the dome ceiling. As the moon slowly edges towards its two-week long night exceptional star displays should become visible with appropriately modulated lighting levels.
The Luna Obscura will be opened and closed regularly to simulate the progression of an Earth day with the exact timing of the openings adjusted to ensure colonists’ circadian rhythms are stimulated appropriately.
From an architectural perspective the Luna Obscura behaves like a clock tower since it gives the effectively subterranean colony environment a sense of the passage of time. The programmatic requirements of the dome sit beneath a frosted glass disc where colonists can benefit from the light as well as periodic glimpses at the projection. Meanwhile the surface of the disc takes on a civic quality and serves as a space for rest, relaxation, socialisation and exercise as well as being a place to marvel at the incredible view!