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LUNAR LIVING: A generative-based morphology for inhabiting moon craters - B.Arch final thesis

(Author: Eduardo Santos / Advisor: Ana Rolim )

NASA set to promote a series of back-to-the-moon missions in 2020 to establish basis for humans to learn how to stay for longer periods of time on this astronomical body, while, in the process, expand the human race to other planets. Acknowledging the re-ignition of this new space exploration era, this thesis proposes a habitat for the moon based on the morphological relations between its craters and a spiral fractal function, in the form of an architectural setting guided by a parametric code that analyses the input data of the lunar terrain to simulate a spectrum of possibilities of spatial conformations, driven by the application of such function as the main input according to which the habitat can perform.


Through in-situ resource utilization the habitat consists mainly of inflatable modules that encapsulate the functional program containing housing, work, and productive communal hubs, as well as, public spaces, which, together, operate towards assuring a permanent and sustainable stay on the moon. The zoning of these components was defined by a form-generating code conceived to facilitate desirable social interactions commonly sought after by humans belonging to a society, targeting to achieve an Earth-like way of living while, at the same time, acknowledging the fact that it is taking place in another quasi planet.


These components work through Controlled Ecological Life-Support Systems (CELLS) that provide long term maintenance of water use, oxygen regeneration, agriculture and waste management (Thangavelu et. Al., 2008). Due to their capability to expand into large pressurized units that demand mild structural efforts, inflatable systems have increasingly been considered an effective solution for space related structures (Howe, 2014), including human settlements on other planets. Being deployable is also a positive feature for such structures, which facilitates expansion and contraction, associated to geometrical, material, and mechanical properties (Adrover, 2015), valuable aspects for moving structures and initiating their use when needed, that can be found, for instance, in solar panels, telescopes, satellites or inflatable habitats.


The concept of modularity itself, embedded in the tradition of the architectural production of inflatable and deployable structures, allows for adaptability of spatial configuration and growth when necessary, widely used features in the space industry. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (Bigelow Aerospace, 2016) and the Moon Capital (Andreas Vogler, 2010) are examples of such initiatives.


Understanding the extreme conditions of the lunar environment was specifically important in the design process. With almost no atmosphere, the moon is subject to harsh temperature fluctuations from -173 up to 127 degrees Celsius, radiation exposure, and impacts with meteorites. Due to its lack of tectonic activity moon craters are stable, with eventual impacts acting as a sole relief-changing agent. Learning the geometrical features of the craters caused by such occurrences led to working with a fractal function to better respond to the craters’ peculiar morphological aspects, facilitating the input data for implementing the proposed system driven by a parametric rational for replicating the components of the habitat on multiple craters.


The bowl-shaped natural form of craters is advantageous for inhabiting as it provides lower exposure to radiation and less temperature fluctuation, resulting in less structural shielding stress for housing built structures. In order to incorporate these aspects into the design, a generative code was developed using Rhinoceros and Grasshopper software, which allowed for a visual programming approach of a habitat system that would adapt itself according to a series of established parameters (such as crater size and spiral rotation), facilitating further prototype testing.

Aerial view of prototypical setting in a moon crater

Justification of overall design direction concerning the nature of the structures to be used and the site choice on the moon

Timeline showing evolution of flying technique

Type tree (Adrover, 2015) & inflatable typologies (Mclean and Silver, 2015)

Contrasting design approaches: The isolated object and the systemic approach adopted in the project

Design guidelines, concepts, and site-related issues

Fractal Typologies

The project's site on the South pole of the moon

Table with input considered to generate craters of simple typology: From the diameter of the circumference it is possible to calculate the other morphological elements. Adapted from Heinken et al (1991)

Simulations of 1km, 400m, and 150m craters of simple typologies generated from the code developed on Grasshopper.

Implanting modules in crater being tested

Part of the Grasshopper code created for the project

Result of code as a base for the design development with internal (grey), and vertical circulation flows (red) indicated below.

Proposed modules

The program displayed in modules

The production module

Public space module

Housing module

Mixed-use Module

First floor plan

Overall section

Aerial 3d view of setting

Exterior view of the setting

View of one of the access platforms

Exterior view of modules

Interior view of public space module

 by Ana Rolim.