Credit: ESA/SOM

It is described as the most desirable real estate in the Solar System: the rim of Shackleton crater at the lunar south pole.

Toss in for good measure a semi-inflatable habitat design which could be part of a long-term vision for an international Moon settlement.

Credit: ESA/SOM


Avoiding the crippling temperature extremes of the Moon’s two-week days and nights, Shackleton crater’s rim offers near-continuous sunlight for solar power, an ongoing view of Earth and potential access to suspected lunar water ice deposits in adjacent permanently-shadowed craters.

European Space Agency experts have teamed with leading architects at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) on a Moon Village project. The results of the work are being exhibited at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy.

Shell structure

Moon Village is a hypothetical concept for lunar settlement through an alliance of private and public, space and non-space partners.

Model of settlement at Shackleton crater rim.
Credit: Laurian Ghinitoiu

SOM architects designed a four story, semi-inflatable shell structure to offer the highest possible volume to mass ratio. Once inflated on the lunar surface, it would reach approximately double its original internal volume.

After landing, the habitat would be inflated either locally by astronauts or via rovers teleoperated from the Gateway station around the Moon. It would keep its four person crew alive and comfortable for up to 300 days at the time.

Credit: ESA/SOM

Modular configurations

The Moon Village relies on modular configurations of habitable structures, integrated with numerous systems including docking capability, environmental control, and life support systems (ECLSS), health equipment, radiation shielding, and other critical features.

A single unit offers a net habitable volume of up to 390 cubic meters (13,773 cubic feet) and a net usable area of up to 104 cubic meters (1,120 cubic feet) distributed between multiple levels.

The primary structure is projected to the perimeter, maximizing the functions of centralized spaces and increasing free volume. Modules are designed to be interconnected, enabling seamless mobility throughout the settlement.

This image, taken by the advanced Moon Imaging Experiment (AMIE) on board ESA’s SMART-1 spacecraft, shows crater Shackleton on the Moon.
Credit: ESA

Master plan

The master plan envisions a Moon Village sited on the rim of Shackleton Crater in the south polar region, on the “peaks of eternal light” which receive near-continuous daylight throughout the lunar year.

This strategic location supports the goal of a self-sufficient settlement. Sunlight can be harnessed for energy, while on-the-spot resources can be used to generate consumables and other life-sustaining elements.

Suspected frozen volatiles and water stored in the permanently shadowed craters near the South Pole would be extracted to create breathable air and rocket propellant for transportation and industrial activities. The settlement would be clustered and expanded along strategic sites, rich in resources and scientific interest.

Shackleton crater lies at the lunar South Pole, at 89.54° South latitude and 0° East longitude, and has a diameter of 12 miles (19 kilometers).

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