Envisioning a lunar habitat for the NASA Artemis program
What is the Endurance Habitat?
The Endurance Habitat is designed for the NASA Artemis Mission which will send four American astronauts back to the moon in 2024 over the course of 30 days. Their mission is to perform regolith and biological science, understand the effects of lunar gravity on human performance, assess the potential of the location as a future lunar outpost, and to prepare for future missions to Mars.
The proposed habitat will be located near the Shackleton Crater at the Lunar South Pole as a permanent research outpost on the lunar surface.
DEFINING OUR GOALS
The Project Brief
NASA and the Rhode Island Space Grant had tasked and funded this project.
Our design team was working with NASA's Center for Design & Space Architecture, which defined the goals and requirements of our project.
Our habitat should be no larger than 4.4 m in diameter and 7 m in length to fit into Space X's Falcon Heavy, the launch vehicle that will carry part of NASA's Gateway Station to lunar orbit and likely deliver a habitat to the lunar surface.
height: 2.25 m
height: 2.05 m
height: 2.10 m
Lavatory & Hygiene
My role: UX Researcher , UX Designer, 3D modeler
As one of the industrial designers, I designed the general habitat layout & structure. I then focused on designing and 3D modelling the mid deck, which houses most scientific and medical instruments. As for the 3d modeling and rendering, in addition to the 3d model of the middle deck, I was in charge of posing all human mannequins in Rhino and generating rendered scenes of certain timestamps from Keyshot for the team.
As a design researcher, I researched layouts, ECLSS (Environmental Control & Life Support Systems), airlocks, logistics, and power sources on existing space habitats, such as the International Space Station.
Learning from Past Missions
Even though we didn't have access to any classified information and couldn't talk to any real astronauts about their experience in space, we still conducted extensive research to make the best possible design decisions.
We looked into plans for the Artemis Program, mission reports from the Apollo Program, and other proposals for lunar exploration. We took the difficulties astronauts have faced in past missions into consideration to brainstorm possible solutions.
We used the ISS (International Space Station) as our design reference. We researched the experiments conducted, the science instruments needed, life support systems, EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) requirements, hygiene management, waste management, etc. We also looked at typical daily schedules for astronauts, daily supplies consumption, and exercise requirements.
Cutaway of the ESA Columbus Module on the ISS
LAYOUT & IDEATION
Based on our extensive research, we decided to choose a vertical layout with three decks and named our proposed habitat the Endurance.
Initial Horizontal Design
Initial Vertical Design
A vertical habitat layout is superior to a horizontal habitat layout in many ways:
1. Separation of space and Activities
A vertical layout with multiple decks makes it easy to delineate space and separate different activities. Astronauts can work on their individual tasks or rest without disturbance from others.
2. Better Regolith Management
Regolith management has always been a major concern for lunar and Mars missions. Fine dust harms research instruments, station hygiene, and the quality of live on the lunar surface. A vertical design can minimize the presence of lunar regolith on the top-deck and mid-deck.
3. More Useable Floor Area
By separating the habitat into three decks, we can create more usable floor space. A vertical design can also take advantage of the top dome for added headroom and the bottom dome for water and liquid oxygen storage.
From the Ground Up
After deciding on a vertical design with three decks, we started to work on a more detailed floor plan and envision how astronauts would live in this habitat.
Design Decision 1: Location of Sleeping Quarters & Galley
Sleeping quarters and the galley should be some of the cleanest environments in the habitat. So we have decided to put them on the top deck where the negative effects from lunar regolith are minimal.
Design Decision 2: Central Corridor vs. "Offset" Corridor
In earlier versions of our design, we put the vertical corridor that connects the three decks in the center of the habitat to utilize all four sides of the habitat. However, we decided to "offset" the vertical corridor to the side upon further research. By offsetting the corridor, astronauts can enjoy more floor space without worrying about "falling" through the floor space. More floor space also means more open space that can bring many psychological benefits.
Mid Deck with Central Corridor
Mid Deck with an "Offset" Corridor
Design Decision 3: “Vertical” ECLSS (Environmental Control & Life Support Systems)
Due to the large volume of the ECLSS system, we decided to design an ECLSS that runs through all three decks and uses the bottom dome as water and liquid oxygen storage. In this way, we can take full advantage of otherwise underutilized volumes within the habitat.
Design Decision 4: In Habitat Suitport vs. External Airlock
In some of the earlier designs, we had included space for suitports. Suitports are tiny airlocks that attach xEMU (next-generation Exploration Extra-Vehicular Mobility Unit) suits to the exterior of the habitat to streamline EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) preparations.
However, due to the limited technology available and the fragility of the current xEMU suits, we have decided to use an external airlock for xEMU suit storage. In this way, we can have better regolith management and save a significant amount of space within the habitat.
The top deck is where the sleeping quarters, the galley, the private communication booth, and the personal hygiene station are located.
We designed the sleeping quarters as private spaces that crew members can seal off. We consulted NASA’s soft goods lab and envisioned a private video calling booth with total sound isolation where crew members can call their families and therapists. Crew members also have quick access to simple hygiene supplies like face wipes at the personal hygiene station.