Called Life Beyond Earth, the four-minute short film presents a realistic vision of a future lunar base and the sustainable habitats that could turn this long-sought goal into a reality.
The concept shown in the film was developed by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and it’s part of an installation currently on display at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of Biennale in Venice, Italy. This year’s theme is, “How will we live together.” Experts from the European Space Agency and retired NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, currently a professor at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, provided technical support for the project.
The installation includes a pair of large-scale physical models, in addition to the film. Daniel Inocente, a senior designer at the architectural firm, said the project “could pave the way for further multidisciplinary exercises here in Europe, when thinking about future sustainable human habitat concepts,” as he explained in an ESA press release. The concept is meant to move us along as we work towards the creation of a viable, long-term lunar base, one made possible by contributions from the private and public sectors, and also space and non-space partners.
The centerpiece of the design is an imagined habitat that could kickstart an early colony on the Moon. Its semi-inflatable design ensures a high volume-to-mass ratio, in which the habitat would expand to nearly double its packing volume when inflated. Rising nearly four stories tall, the structure would include reconfigurable elements, tall ceilings, staircases, workspaces, and even grasping bars to help the crew take full advantage of the low gravity conditions on the Moon.
The structures could be inflated either on the spot by astronauts or remotely using robotic devices controlled by operators on Gateway, a planned space station in lunar orbit. The current design could sustain a four-person crew for 300 days and in relatively cozy conditions.
In the video, an imagined colony can be seen along the rim of Shackleton Crater, which is located near the lunar South Pole. This location is a smart choice, as it would provide near-continuous sunlight for solar power, a persistent view of Mother Earth, and access to water deposits tucked away in permanently shaded areas within the crater.
We’ve all seen futuristic visions of lunar bases before, but they’re often forgotten—mostly because they’re never realized. The first lunar colony might not look exactly like the one portrayed in the new film, but this particular vision seems… right. The timing also seems right, as our civilization finally seems ready to embark on meaningful missions to the Moon. The time is quickly approaching, it would seem, for us to finally create permanent settlements on our natural satellite.