Is This Inflatable City What Life Would Look Like on the Moon?

Architecture firm SOM takes a stab at lunar life.

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© SOM | Slashcube GmbH

What would life be like on the moon? It's a question mankind has been pondering for generations—long before the 1950s saw the infamous Space Race and first lunar landing. Now, scientists are thinking beyond one small step on the lunar surface and looking at possibilities for sustained life there—led by good design.

With Moon Village, a concept debuted this week, SOM—the architecture firm behind such iconic buildings as New York's One World Trade Center and Dubai's Cayan Tower—took a (scientifically informed) stab at designing for life beyond Earth.

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A rendering of Moon Village from above.
© SOM | Slashcube GmbH

"Five decades after humans first set foot on the Moon, a new initiative is underway to bring us back—and this time, the aspiration is to settle there on a permanent basis," said the firm in an announcement. Moon Village was designed in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), merging scientific, technological, and design expertise.

"The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM Design Partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth, like radiation protection, pressure differentials, and how to provide breathable air."

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Modules being packed for travel to the moon.
© SOM | Slashcube GmbH

The resulting plan is a settlement of pressurized modules, which can be reconfigured for various purposes. Each three-to-four story structure contains work and living spaces and can withstand extreme temperatures, dust, and solar radiation. SOM proposes placing the modules at the rim of the Shackleton Crater near the Moon's South Pole, for multiple reasons: (1) this area receives almost continuous daylight throughout the year; (2) water and ice from craters in the area would be used both for drinking purposes and to create breathable air for new inhabitants.

Besides the modules, SOM has designed communications towers to sit on the highest points of the moon's uneven terrain. Together, the structures would, says the release, "enable the Moon Village to carry out its much larger purpose as a scientific, industrial, and entertainment development, and an endeavor with far-reaching goals."

Sick of the state of things on earth? Keep an eye on this project.

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