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While NASA plans permanent bases in space, MIT designs habitats

While NASA plans permanent bases in space, MIT designs habitats
While NASA plans permanent bases in space, MIT designs habitats

A new course from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) challenged students to design what humans would need to work and live in space. This effort is framed in a context in which NASA, under its Artemis program, is preparing to establish long-term bases both in orbit and on the lunar surface. While The Apollo missions focused on landing, collecting samples and returning, Artemis seeks to stay on the moon.

The interdisciplinary course MAS.S66/4.154/16.89known as Spatial architectureswas developed in conjunction with the Departments of Architecture and Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Innovation Initiatives group. Space exploration from the MIT Media Lab. In this, thirty-five students signed up to ideate, design, prototype and test solutions that can support human life and work on the moon.

Jeffrey Hoffmanprofessor of practice at AeroAstro and former NASA astronaut, said, “Half of the students want to be astronauts at some point, so it’s not like they hadn’t thought about living in space before. This was an opportunity to use that inspiration and working on a project that could become a real design for real lunar habitats.”

In this course it was necessary to prepare students to future stages of exploration and life in space. The rise of commercial spaceflight also underscores the need to investigate these designs. Nicholas de Monchauxhead of the architecture department and one of the course instructors, explained: “MIT Architecture has always been most successful at the intersection of research and practice.”

A distinctive feature of the course was the combination of architecture and engineering students, allowing challenges to be addressed from multiple perspectives. Course activities included visits to the Johnson Space Center from NASA in Houston, Texas; at launch facilities SpaceX in Brownsville, Texas; already printing facilities ICON 3D in Austin, Texas. These trips provided students with a comprehensive view of the teams already working in that field.

Furthermore, the students were organized into seven teams to develop their projects and, during the conceptual phase, the visions of the architects, focused on creating comfortable habitats, often clashed with those of the engineers, focused on the realities of the extreme environment. . Thus, several projects stood out for their inflatable designs. In which, they proposed a mobile scientific library inflatable modular for four people, an inflatable habitat deployable in minutes for temporary protection and a semi-permanent habitat in situ for exploration prior to an established base.

Annika Thomasa doctoral student in mechanical engineering, explained that integrating the ideas of architects and engineers was a challenge, but over time they achieved effective communication united by a common vision. While, Juan Daniel Hurtado Salazar and Mikita Klimenkamentioned that although technical considerations in architecture are often resolved later in projects, collaboration with engineers nevertheless allowed the implications to be addressed from the beginning.

The final projects reflected the diversity of approaches, as well Cody Paigedirector of Space Exploration Initiatives, emphasized that students had to consider materials, transportation, assembly, durability and the human experience on the moon. Practical experience was crucial, especially in a context where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly present in decision-making. “A computer doesn’t always translate exactly to the real world, so having students make prototypes shows them that it’s very beneficial to understand the materials you’re working with, how they work in real life, and the tactile characteristics.”

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