Scientists have developed pop-up space habitats for future human colonies on the Moon and Mars, using a combination of origami techniques and digital weaving processes.
MoonMars, a collaboration between the International Lunar Exploration Working Group(ILEWG), textile architect studio Samira Boon, and other research institutions, are transforming architecture plans for smart human habitats and research stations in space.
“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,” said Anna Sitnikova, who leads the MoonMars project on behalf of the ILEWG.
“Structures remain functional in changing circumstances, thereby extending their useable life-span,” said Sitnikova.
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.
Following initial tests of a prototype entrance tunnel during a simulation at the European Space Agency’s facility, the team is now planning an ambitious series of trials for 2019.
“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,” she said.