Origami opens up smart options for architecture on the Moon and Mars

September 21, 2018, Europlanet
The prototype was deployed and tested to extreme conditions on the 20th of April during the EuroMoonMars2018 simulation at ESA – ESTEC. The origami structure was designed as a gateway and sub-system between the exo-habitat, airlock system and exo-laboratory. Credit: Anna Sitnikova

Origami and high-performance textiles are transforming architecture plans for smart human habitats and research stations on the Moon and Mars. Initial field tests of the MoonMars project's origami prototype will be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 in Berlin by Dr. Anna Sitnikova.

MoonMars is a collaboration between the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG), ESA-ESTEC, research institutions and textile architect studio Samira Boon. The MoonMars team have incorporated structure into digital weaving processes to sculpt complex forms that are compact to transport and easy to deploy through inflatable, pop-up or robotic mechanisms in extraterrestrial environments.

"Origami structures made of textiles can be unfolded into a myriad of different shapes. They are lightweight. They can be easily deployed and re-used in different configurations and sizes for flexible spatial usage. Structures remain functional in changing circumstances, thereby extending their useable life-span," said Sitnikova, who leads the MoonMars project on behalf of the ILEWG.

In the hostile environment of space, high-performance textiles and the flexibile nature of origami can provide unique architectural advantages. The angled facets of origami structures mean that incoming micrometeorites are less likely hit surfaces at 90 degrees, dissipating the energy of potential impacts and the risks of penetration, thus protecting astronauts inside habitats. Solar panels embedded in shape-shifting textiles can follow the Sun to gather more energy through the day. Transparent and opaque facets can change direction to alter internal lighting and climate conditions.

Studio Samira Boon has created woven self supported origami structures from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc. Credit: Studio Samira Boon

Following initial tests of a prototype entrance tunnel during the EuroMoonMars simulation at the European Space Agency's ESTEC facility in April 2018, the MoonMars team is now planning an ambitious series of trials for 2019. In June, the IGLUNA project, led by the Swiss Space Center, will include tests of an origami in the glacier above Zermatt in Switzerland. In September 2019 the team will travel to Iceland to participate in a campaign inside a lava-tube cave system.

"We've just returned from a scouting trip and have selected the cave systems of Stefanshellir and Surtshellir, which has large galleries and a very elaborate tunnel system. We are provisionally looking at setting up a small habitat, implementing knowledge from previous demonstrations of our origami tunnel and woven domes," said Sitnikova.

Studio Samira Boon has created a woven self supported origami dome from a single sheet of fabric and woven self supportive arc. Credit: Studio Samira Boon

The next design milestone will be a self-deployable origami habitat.

"Origami for space architecture promotes cross-disciplinary approaches and applications, providing state-of-the-art production and design methods," said Sitnikova. "Habitats enhanced by such structures are temporal and alive as they are able to transform and redefine themselves in resonance with human and environmental factors."

Freeform Origami Software by collaborator, Tomohiro Tachi, allows the team to sculpt or generate complex origami forms while altering  the crease pattern of the model. Credit: Tomohiro Tachi

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1 / 5 (2) Sep 21, 2018
I like to imagine things like this covered in Vanta-black forests of nanotubes soaking up every available photon as it reconfigures itself to maximize thrust with a minimum of course corrections, to achieve its desired vector. If we use conventional solar sails, the incidental reflections will eventually overwhelm the billion dollar space telescopes of the future.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 21, 2018
@Jeffhans1 Is absorbing all the photons a GOOD IDEA??? The idea of a Solar Sail is to REFLECT the light. Reflected light in one direction, space-craft motion in the other. Using Vanta-black would just heat up your sail until it started to breakdown.
5 / 5 (2) Sep 22, 2018
This is very interesting. In my opinion, anyone developing space technologies should look for applications here on Earth too. A Moon / Mars habitat may make a very good home here. In this way, a solution can become feasible before it is deployed in space. That could attract financing.
4 / 5 (4) Sep 22, 2018
Domes with complex topology would be better at retaining regolith for shielding.

Yall can put your flat panels on the ground where they belong.
A Moon / Mars habitat may make a very good home here
They would be designed to radically different parameters. Internal pressure, no wind loads, shielding dead loads, no rainwater runoff, different foundation reqts, etc.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 22, 2018
Um, IIRC, Moon suffers from micro-meteorites. 'The Martian' aside, Mars does, too...
not rated yet Sep 22, 2018
Surely the statement:

"The angled facets of origami structures mean that incoming micrometeorites are less likely hit surfaces at 90 degrees" is incorrect.

That would only be true if the micrometeorites came in at some exact predictable angle relative to the surface of the structure. They can come in at any angle, in fact the slope might mean that the incoming at a particular angle IS at 90 degrees where it wouldn't otherwise be.

3 / 5 (2) Sep 23, 2018
Eat your hearts out geodesic dome owners!

A Moon / Mars habitat may make a very good home here

Probably not, rain and snow would be trapped by the shapes.
5 / 5 (1) Sep 23, 2018
A Moon / Mars habitat may make a very good home here

Probably not, rain and snow would be trapped by the shapes.

Their shapes can be enveloped both inside and outside with smooth surfaces, which would make them even stronger.
5 / 5 (3) Sep 23, 2018
Eat your hearts out geodesic dome owners!

A Moon / Mars habitat may make a very good home here

Probably not, rain and snow would be trapped by the shapes.
says Cusco

There doesn't have to be straight angles, you know. These domes would be perfect to house the homeless and homeless mentally ill, as well as those like SpookyOtto who have no home but physorg.
So instead of having homeless and mentally ill homeless and those who prefer being homeless living on the streets of, say, San Fransicko, they would have a nice dome to live under besides their main domicile under a bridge or near a source of water in which they defecate and take water from for drinking and that occasional bath.
The Japanese are certainly an inventive people. And their cuisine is great also.

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