Shackleton Crater, Moon: Inspired by the annelids

Shackleton Crater, Moon designed by Daniele Florenzano, Defne Buyurman, Silvia di Sano, Ardit Dobroshi, Riccardo Finardi, Zeynepnaz Kocabas, and Polina Kozhevatova at POLIMI’s Architecture for Human Space Exploration course collaborative with MIT Media Lab led by Prof. Valentina Sumini and Teaching Assistant Marta Rossi. The students created a multi-scale cross-disciplinary design project based on knowledge and technology established for space applications, emphasizing human space exploration.

Space exploration has always been a desired field for multidisciplinary teams worldwide. Now more than ever, humanity is close to a real step towards extended lunar exploration and possibilities for long-term missions on Earth’s satellite. Designing potential habitat solutions that would sustain human presence on the lunar surface is a significant challenge to address.

Lunar Worm is a hybrid class II and III module for long-term habitation that aims at increasing human research and settlement capabilities through a biomimetic approach inspired by annelids. The chosen location for the mission is Shackleton created, which became a target for multiple spaces and lunar research groups mainly due to the perpetual sunlight and the presence of frozen water. For the initial step of the mission, a proposal of a limited village is determined, composed of two deployable modules designed for a crew of 4 members.

Inspired by the annelids, Lunar Worm’s main feature involved a deployment system based on expanding a series of segments of a composite inflatable solution enclosed between two rigid shells. Regarding the materials, high-strength, impact-resistant, and advanced composite materials are chosen for the envelope: the front bumbler is made of Kevlar-reinforced polymer composites, whereas the other layers include Nextel and Kevlar fibers. Overall, the rigidity and the structural resistance of the module are guaranteed by the aluminum frame, which possesses low mass and high stiffness and minimizes transportation costs and volume.

The inflatable system’s inner layers integrate innovative solutions such as mycelium, cyanobacteria, and ice to provide insulation and radiation protection. Furthermore, the fabrication through 3D printing of lunar regolith radiation shielding has been envisioned during robotic precursor missions aimed at site preparation for human arrival. The module’s organization allows for the deployment in vertical and horizontal directions, increasing its flexibility.

The interior distribution of the modules has similar facilities that offer structurally stable, psychologically comfortable, and mission-targeted design solutions, considering both the technical requirements and suggestions for the optimal physiological performance of the crew. Modularity and redundancy at a module and settlement level are taken as fundamental design principles to create a system that allows for an incremental expansion to serve larger crews over time and become a permanent lunar habitation and research village.

About Architecture for Human Space Exploration course

The “Architecture for Human Space Exploration” course focuses on developing resilient and long-term infrastructure for manned trips to the Moon and Mars. This new design issue necessitates a new holistic design approach. Space architecture is built on a foundation of key pillars inextricably linked: space sciences, engineering, industrial design, ergonomics, medical, psychology, and art.

Project Info

Course: Architecture for Human Space Exploration, POLIMI
Collaborator: MIT Media Lab
Students: Daniele Florenzano, Defne Buyurman, Silvia di Sano, Ardit Dobroshi, Riccardo Finardi, Zeynepnaz Kocabas, Polina Kozhevatova
Tutors: Prof. Valentina Sumini and TA Marta Rossi
Year: 2021-2022

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