Space architecture
Space architecture, in its simplest definition, is the theory and practice of designing and building inhabited environments in outer space
Outer space
Outer space is the void that exists between celestial bodies, including the Earth. It is not completely empty, but consists of a hard vacuum containing a low density of particles: predominantly a plasma of hydrogen and helium, as well as electromagnetic radiation, magnetic fields, and neutrinos....

. The architectural approach to spacecraft design addresses the total built environment, drawing from diverse disciplines including physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, and sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 as well as technical fields. Like architecture on Earth, the attempt is to go beyond the component elements and systems and gain a broad understanding of the issues that affect design success. Much space architecture work has been in designing concepts for orbital space stations and lunar and Martian exploration ships and surface bases for the world's space agencies, chiefly the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The practice of involving architects in the space program grew out of the Space Race
Space Race
The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national...

, although its origins can be seen much earlier. The need for their involvement stemmed from the push to extend space mission durations and address the needs of astronauts including but beyond minimum survival needs. Space architecture is currently represented in several institutions. The Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) is an academic organization with the University of Houston
University of Houston
The University of Houston is a state research university, and is the flagship institution of the University of Houston System. Founded in 1927, it is Texas's third-largest university with nearly 40,000 students. Its campus spans 667 acres in southeast Houston, and was known as University of...

 that offers a Master of Science in Space Architecture. SICSA also works design contracts with corporations and space agencies. In Europe, International Space University
International Space University
The International Space University is a private university founded in 1987. The University currently offers three degree granting programs — Master of Science in Space Management, Master of Science in Space Studies and Executive MBA — in addition to a non-degree-granting Space Studies Program.The...

 is deeply involved in space architecture research. The International Conference on Environmental Systems
International Conference on Environmental Systems
The International Conference on Environmental Systems, or ICES , is an annual technical conference focusing on human spaceflight technology and space human factors...

 meets annually to present sessions on human spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

 and space human factors
Human factors
Human factors science or human factors technologies is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, industrial design, statistics, operations research and anthropometry...

. Within the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics is the professional society for the field of aerospace engineering. The AIAA was founded in 1963 from the merger of two earlier societies: the American Rocket Society , founded in 1930 as the American Interplanetary Society , and the Institute...

, the Space Architecture Technical Committee has been formed. Despite the historical pattern of large government-led space projects and university-level conceptual design, the advent of space tourism
Space tourism
Space Tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry...

 threatens to shift the outlook for space architecture work.


The word space in space architecture is referring to the outer space definition, which is from English outer and space. Outer can be defined as "situated on or toward the outside; external; exterior" and first originated around 1350-1400 in Middle English
Middle English
Middle English is the stage in the history of the English language during the High and Late Middle Ages, or roughly during the four centuries between the late 11th and the late 15th century....

. Space is "an area, extent, expanse, lapse of time," the aphetic
In phonetics, apheresis is the loss of one or more sounds from the beginning of a word, especially the loss of an unstressed vowel.-Apheresis as a historical sound change:...

 of Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 espace dating to 1300. Espace is from Latin spatium, "room, area, distance, stretch of time," and is of uncertain origin. In space architecture, speaking of outer space usually means the region of the universe outside Earth's atmosphere, as opposed to outside the atmospheres of all terrestrial bodies. This allows the term to include such domains as the lunar and Martian surfaces.

Architecture, the concatenation of architect and -ure, dates to 1563, coming from Middle French
Middle French
Middle French is a historical division of the French language that covers the period from 1340 to 1611. It is a period of transition during which:...

 architecte. This term is of Latin origin, formerly architectus, which came from Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 arkhitekton. Arkitekton means "master builder" and is from the combination of arkhi- "chief" and tekton "builder". The human experience is central to architecture - the primary difference between space architecture and spacecraft engineering
Astronautics, and related astronautical engineering, is the theory and practice of navigation beyond the Earth's atmosphere. In other words, it is the science and technology of space flight....


There is some debate over the terminology of space architecture. Some consider the field to be a specialty within architecture that applies architectural principles to space applications. Others such as professor Ted Hall of the University of Michigan see space architects as generalists, with what is traditionally considered architecture (Earth-bound or terrestrial architecture) being a subset of a broader space architecture. Any structures that fly in space will likely remain for some time highly dependent on Earth-based infrastructure and personnel for financing, development, construction, launch, and operation. Therefore it is a matter of discussion how much of these earthly assets are to be considered part of space architecture. The technicalities of the term space architecture are open to some level of interpretation.


Humans have looked to the cosmos in wonder since time immemorial. Ideas of people traveling to space were first published in science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 stories, like Jules Verne's 1865 From the Earth to the Moon
From the Earth to the Moon
From the Earth to the Moon is a humorous science fantasy novel by Jules Verne and is one of the earliest entries in that genre. It tells the story of the president of a post-American Civil War gun club in Baltimore, his rival, a Philadelphia maker of armor, and a Frenchman, who build an enormous...

. In this story several details of the mission (crew of three, spacecraft dimensions, Florida launch site) bear striking similarity to the Apollo moon landings that took place more than 100 years later. Verne's aluminum capsule had shelves stocked with equipment needed for the journey such as a collapsing telescope, pickaxes and shovels, firearms, oxygen generators, and even trees to plant. A curved sofa was built into the floor and walls and windows near the tip of the spacecraft were accessible by ladder. The projectile was shaped like a bullet because it was gun-launched
Space gun
A space gun is a method of launching an object into outer space using a large gun, or cannon. It provides a method of non-rocket spacelaunch‎.In the HARP Project a U.S...

 from the ground, a method infeasible for transporting man to space due to the high acceleration forces produced. It would take rocket
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction...

ry to get humans to the cosmos.
The first serious theoretical work published on space travel by means of rocket power was by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was an Imperial Russian and Soviet rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory. Along with his followers the German Hermann Oberth and the American Robert H. Goddard, he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of rocketry and astronautics...

 in 1903. Besides being the father of astronautics he conceived such ideas as the space elevator
Space elevator
A space elevator, also known as a geostationary orbital tether or a beanstalk, is a proposed non-rocket spacelaunch structure...

 (inspired by the Eiffel Tower), a rotating space station that created artificial gravity
Artificial gravity
Artificial gravity is the varying of apparent gravity via artificial means, particularly in space, but also on the Earth...

 along the outer circumference, airlock
An airlock is a device which permits the passage of people and objects between a pressure vessel and its surroundings while minimizing the change of pressure in the vessel and loss of air from it...

s, space suits for extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity
Extra-vehicular activity is work done by an astronaut away from the Earth, and outside of a spacecraft. The term most commonly applies to an EVA made outside a craft orbiting Earth , but also applies to an EVA made on the surface of the Moon...

 (EVA), closed ecosystems to provide food and oxygen, and solar power in space. Tsiolkovsky believed human occupation of space was the inevitable path for our species. In 1952 Wernher von Braun published his own inhabited space station concept in a series of magazine articles. His design was an upgrade of earlier concepts but he took the unique step in going directly to the public with it. The spinning space station would have three decks and was to function as a navigational aid, meteorological station, Earth observatory, military platform, and way point for further exploration missions to outer space. It is said that the space station depicted in 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey (film)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a 1968 epic science fiction film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, and co-written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, partially inspired by Clarke's short story The Sentinel...

traces its design heritage to Von Braun's work. Werner von Braun went on to devise mission schemes to the moon and Mars, each time publishing his grand plans in Collier's Weekly
Collier's Weekly
Collier's Weekly was an American magazine founded by Peter Fenelon Collier and published from 1888 to 1957. With the passage of decades, the title was shortened to Collier's....


The flight of Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut. He was the first human to journey into outer space, when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on April 12, 1961....

 on April 12, 1961 was humanity's maiden spaceflight
Human spaceflight
Human spaceflight is spaceflight with humans on the spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes and remotely-controlled satellites....

. While the mission was a necessary first step, Gagarin was more or less confined to a chair with a small view port from which to observe the cosmos - a far cry from the possibilities of life in space. Following space missions gradually improved living conditions and quality of life in low earth orbit
Low Earth orbit
A low Earth orbit is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km...

. Expanding room for movement, physical exercise regimens, sanitation facilities, improved food quality, and recreational activities all accompanied longer mission durations. Architectural involvement in space was realized in 1968 when a group of architects and industrial designers led by Raymond Loewy, over objections from engineers, prevailed in convincing NASA to include an observation window in the Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

 orbital laboratory. This milestone represents the introduction of the human psychological dimension to spacecraft design. Space architecture was born.


The subject of architectural theory
Architectural theory
Architectural theory is the act of thinking, discussing, or most importantly writing about architecture. Architectural theory is taught in most architecture schools and is practiced by the world's leading architects. Some forms that architecture theory takes are the lecture or dialogue, the...

 has much application in space architecture. Some considerations, though, will be unique to the space context.

Ideology of building

In the first century BC, the Roman architect Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 said all buildings should have three things: strength, utility, and beauty. Vitruvius's work De Architectura
De architectura
' is a treatise on architecture written by the Roman architect Vitruvius and dedicated to his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus, as a guide for building projects...

, the only surviving work on the subject from classical antiquity, would have profound influence on architectural theory for thousands of years to come. Even in space architecture these are some of the first things we consider. However, the tremendous challenge of living in space has led to habitat design based largely on functional necessity with little or no applied ornament
Ornament (architecture)
In architecture and decorative art, ornament is a decoration used to embellish parts of a building or object. Large figurative elements such as monumental sculpture and their equivalents in decorative art are excluded from the term; most ornament does not include human figures, and if present they...

. In this sense space architecture as we know it shares the form follows function
Form follows function
Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose....

 principle with modern architecture
Modern architecture
Modern architecture is generally characterized by simplification of form and creation of ornament from the structure and theme of the building. It is a term applied to an overarching movement, with its exact definition and scope varying widely...


Some theorists link different elements of the Vitruvian triad. Walter Gropius
Walter Gropius
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture....

As space architecture continues to mature as a discipline, dialogue on architectural design values will open up just as it has for Earth.


A starting point for space architecture theory is the search for extreme environment
Extreme environment
An extreme environment exhibits extreme conditions which are challenging to most life forms. These may be extremely high or low ranges of temperature, radiation, pressure, acidity, alkalinity, air, water, salt, sugar, carbon dioxide, sulphur, petroleum and many others.An extreme environment is one...

s in terrestrial settings where humans have lived, and the formation of analogs between these environments and space. For example humans have lived in submarines deep in the ocean, in bunkers beneath the Earth's surface, and on Antarctica, and have safely entered burning buildings, radioactively contaminated zones, and the stratosphere
The stratosphere is the second major layer of Earth's atmosphere, just above the troposphere, and below the mesosphere. It is stratified in temperature, with warmer layers higher up and cooler layers farther down. This is in contrast to the troposphere near the Earth's surface, which is cooler...

 with the help of technology. Aerial refueling
Aerial refueling
Aerial refueling, also called air refueling, in-flight refueling , air-to-air refueling or tanking, is the process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another during flight....

 enables Air Force One
Air Force One
Air Force One is the official air traffic control call sign of any United States Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. In common parlance the term refers to those Air Force aircraft whose primary mission is to transport the president; however, any U.S. Air Force aircraft...

 to stay airborne virtually indefinitely. Nuclear powered submarines generate oxygen using electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

 and can stay submerged for months at a time. Many of these analogs can be very useful design references for space systems. In fact space station life support system
Life support system
In human spaceflight, a life support system is a group of devices that allow a human being to survive in space.US government space agency NASA,and private spaceflight companies...

s and astronaut survival gear for emergency landings bear striking similarity to submarine life support systems and military pilot survival kits, respectively.

Space missions, especially human ones, require extensive preparation. In addition to terrestrial analogs providing design insight, the analogous environments can serve as testbeds to further develop techonologies for space applications and train astronaut crews. The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station
The Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station is the first of two simulated Mars habitats established and maintained by the Mars Society.-Background:...

 is a simulated Mars base, maintained by the Mars Society
Mars Society
The Mars Society is an international space advocacy non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. It was founded by Robert Zubrin and others in 1998 and attracted the support of notable science fiction writers and filmmakers, including Kim...

, on Canada's remote Devon Island
Devon Island
Devon Island , claimed to be the largest uninhabited island on Earth, is located in Baffin Bay, Qikiqtaaluk Region, Nunavut, Canada. It is one of the larger members of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, the second-largest of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada's sixth largest island, and the 27th...

. The project aims to create conditions as similar as possible to a real Mars mission and attempts to establish ideal crew size, test equipment "in the field", and determine the best extra-vehicular activity suits and procedures. To train for EVAs in microgravity, space agencies make broad use of underwater and simulator
Simulation is the imitation of some real thing available, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system....

 training. The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory
The Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory is an astronaut training facility maintained by and located at the Sonny Carter Training Facility on NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The NBL consists of a large indoor pool of water, the largest in the world, in which astronauts may perform simulated...

, NASA's underwater training facility, contains full scale mockups of the Space Shuttle cargo bay and International Space Station modules. Technology development and astronaut training in space-analogous environments are essential to making living in space possible.

In space

Fundamental to space architecture is designing for physical and psychological wellness in space. What often is taken for granted on Earth - air, water, food, trash disposal - must be designed for in fastidious detail. Rigorous exercise regimens are required to alleviate muscular atrophy and other effects of space on the body. That space missions are (optimally) fixed in duration can lead to stress
Stress (biology)
Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance...

 from isolation. This problem is not unlike that faced in remote research stations or military tours of duty, although non-standard gravity conditions can exacerbate feelings of unfamiliarity and homesickness. Furthermore confinement in limited and unchanging physical spaces appears to magnify interpersonal tensions in small crews and contribute to other negative psychological effects. These stresses can be mitigated by establishing regular contact with family and friends on Earth, maintaining health, incorporating recreational activities, and bringing along familiar items such as photographs and green plants. The importance of these psychological measures can be appreciated in the 1968 Soviet 'DLB Lunar Base' design:

The challenge of getting anything at all to space, due to launch constraints, has had a profound effect on the physical shapes of space architecture. All space habitats to date have used modular architecture design. Payload fairing dimensions (typically the width but also the height) of modern launch vehicle
Launch vehicle
In spaceflight, a launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from the Earth's surface into outer space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, the launch pad and other infrastructure....

s limit the size of rigid components launched into space. This approach to building large scale structures in space involves launching multiple modules separately and then manually assembling them afterward. Modular architecture results in a layout similar to a tunnel system where passage through several modules is often required to reach any particular destination. It also tends to standardize the internal diameter or width of pressurized rooms, with machinery and furniture placed along the circumference. These types of space stations and surface bases can generally only grow by adding additional modules in one or more direction. Finding adequate working and living space is often a major challenge with modular architecture. As a solution, flexible furniture (collapsible tables, curtains on rails, deployable beds) can be used to transform interiors for different functions and change the partitioning between private and group space. For more discussion of the factors that influence shape in space architecture, see the Varieties section.

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc was a French architect and theorist, famous for his interpretive "restorations" of medieval buildings. Born in Paris, he was a major Gothic Revival architect.-Early years:...

 advocated different architectural forms for different materials. This is especially important in space architecture. The mass constraints with launching push engineers to find ever lighter materials with adequate material properties. Moreover challenges unique to the orbital space environment
Space environment
Space environment is a branch of astronautics, aerospace engineering and space physics that seeks to understand and address conditions existing in space that affect the operation of spacecraft...

, such as rapid thermal expansion due to abrupt changes in solar exposure, and corrosion
Corrosion in space
Corrosion in space is the corrosion of materials occurring in outer space. Instead of moisture and oxygen acting as the primary corrosion causes, the materials exposed to outer space are subjected to vacuum, bombardment by ultraviolet light and x-rays, high-energy charged particles...

 caused by particle and atomic oxygen bombardment, require unique materials solutions. Just as the industrial age produced new materials and opened up new architectural possibilities, advances in materials technology will change the prospects of space architecture. Carbon-fiber is already being incorporated into space hardware because of its high strength-to-weight ratio. It will interesting to see whether carbon-fiber or other composite materials will be adopted for major structural components in space. The architectural principle that champions using the most appropriate materials and leaving their nature unadorned is called truth to materials
Truth to materials
Truth to materials is a tenet of modern architecture , which holds that any material should be used where it is most appropriate and its nature should not be hidden...


A notable difference between the orbital context of space architecture and Earth-based architecture is that structures in orbit do not need to support their own weight. This is possible because of the microgravity condition of objects in free fall. In fact much space hardware, such as the space shuttle's robotic arm, is designed only to function in orbit and wouldn't be able to lift its own weight on the Earth's surface. Microgravity also allows an astronaut to move an object of practically any mass, albeit slowly, provided she is adequately constrained to another object. Therefore structural considerations for the orbital environment are dramatically different from those of terrestrial buildings, and the biggest challenge to holding a space station together is usually launching and assembling the components intact. Construction on extraterrestrial surfaces still needs to be designed to support its own weight, but its weight will depend on the strength of the local gravitational field
Gravitational field
The gravitational field is a model used in physics to explain the existence of gravity. In its original concept, gravity was a force between point masses...


Ground Infrastructure

Human spaceflight currently requires a great deal of supporting infrastructure on Earth. All human orbital missions to date have been government-orchestrated. The organizational body that manages space missions is typically a national space agency, NASA in the case of the United States and Roscosmos for Russia. These agencies are funded at the federal level. At NASA, flight controller
Flight controller
Flight controllers are personnel who aid in the operations of a space flight, working in Mission Control Centers such as NASA's Mission Control Center, or ESA's Operations Center. Flight controllers sit at computer consoles and use telemetry to monitor in real time various technical aspects of a...

s are responsible for real-time mission operations and work onsite at NASA Centers. Most engineering development work involved with space vehicles is contracted-out
General contractor
A general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and communication of information to involved parties throughout the course of a building project.-Description:...

 to private companies, who in turn may employ subcontractors of their own, while fundamental research and conceptual design is often done in academia
Academia is the community of students and scholars engaged in higher education and research.-Etymology:The word comes from the akademeia in ancient Greece. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning...

 through research funding
Research funding
Research funding is a term generally covering any funding for scientific research, in the areas of both "hard" science and technology and social science. The term often connotes funding obtained through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most...



Structures that cross the boundary of space but do not reach orbital speeds are considered suborbital architecture. For spaceplane
A spaceplane is a vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth's atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that...

s, the architecture has much in common with airliner architecture, especially those of small business jet
Business jet
Business jet, private jet or, colloquially, bizjet is a term describing a jet aircraft, usually of smaller size, designed for transporting groups of up to 19 business people or wealthy individuals...


Virgin Galactic

On June 21, 2004, Mike Melvill
Mike Melvill
Michael Winston "Mike" Melvill is one of the test pilots for SpaceShipOne, the experimental spaceplane developed by Scaled Composites. Melvill piloted SpaceShipOne on its first flight past the edge of space, flight 15P on June 21, 2004, thus becoming the first commercial astronaut and the 434th...

 pierced the boundary of space funded entirely by private means. The vehicle, SpaceShipOne, was developed by Scaled Composites
Scaled Composites
Scaled Composites is an aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan and currently owned by Northrop Grumman that is located at the Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, California, United States...

 as an experimental precursor to a privately operated fleet of spaceplane
A spaceplane is a vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth's atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that...

s for suborbital space tourism
Space tourism
Space Tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry...

. The operational spaceplane model, SpaceShipTwo (SS2), will be carried to an altitude of about 15 kilometers by its B-29 Superfortress
B-29 Superfortress
The B-29 Superfortress is a four-engine propeller-driven heavy bomber designed by Boeing that was flown primarily by the United States Air Forces in late-World War II and through the Korean War. The B-29 was one of the largest aircraft to see service during World War II...

-sized carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo. From there SS2 will detach and fire its rocket motor to bring the craft to its apogee of approximately 110 kilometers. Because SS2 is not designed to go into orbit around the Earth, it is an example of suborbital or aerospace architecture
Aerospace architecture
Aerospace architecture is broadly defined to encompass architectural design of non-habitable and habitable structures and living and working environments in aerospace-related facilities, habitats, and vehicles...


The architecture of the SpaceShipTwo vehicle is somewhat different than what is common in previous space vehicles. Unlike the cluttered interiors with protruding machinery and many obscure switches of previous vehicles, this cabin looks more like something out of science fiction than a modern spacecraft. Both SS2 and the carrier aircraft are being built from lightweight composite materials instead of metal. When the time for weightlessness has arrived on a SS2 flight, the noise and turbulent vibration of the rocket motor will give way to silence and calm. Passengers will be able to see the sky turn from blue to black and make out the curvature of the Earth. Numerous double-paned windows that encircle the cabin will offer views in nearly all directions. Cushioned seats will recline flat into the floor to maximize room for floating. An always-pressurized interior will eliminate the need for bulky space suits. The spaceflight experience offered by Virgin Galactic promises to transform access to space and indeed the very idea of an astronaut.


Orbital architecture is the architecture of structures designed to orbit
In physics, an orbit is the gravitationally curved path of an object around a point in space, for example the orbit of a planet around the center of a star system, such as the Solar System...

 around the Earth or another astronomical object
Astronomical object
Astronomical objects or celestial objects are naturally occurring physical entities, associations or structures that current science has demonstrated to exist in the observable universe. The term astronomical object is sometimes used interchangeably with astronomical body...

. Examples of currently-operational orbital architecture are the International Space Station
International Space Station
The International Space Station is a habitable, artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS follows the Salyut, Almaz, Cosmos, Skylab, and Mir space stations, as the 11th space station launched, not including the Genesis I and II prototypes...

 and the re-entry vehicles Space Shuttle
Space Shuttle
The Space Shuttle was a manned orbital rocket and spacecraft system operated by NASA on 135 missions from 1981 to 2011. The system combined rocket launch, orbital spacecraft, and re-entry spaceplane with modular add-ons...

, Soyuz spacecraft, and Shenzhou spacecraft. Historical craft include the Mir space station, Skylab
Skylab was a space station launched and operated by NASA, the space agency of the United States. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems. It was launched unmanned by a modified Saturn V rocket, with a mass of...

, and the Apollo spacecraft
Apollo spacecraft
The Apollo spacecraft was composed of five combined parts designed to accomplish the American Apollo program's goal of landing astronauts on the Moon by the end of the 1960s and returning them safely to Earth...

. Orbital architecture usually addresses the condition of weightlessness, a lack of atmospheric and magnetospheric protection from solar and cosmic
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...

 radiation, rapid day/night cycles, and possibly risk of orbital debris collision. In addition, re-entry vehicles must also be adapted both to weightlessness and to the high temperatures and accelerations experienced during atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...


International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is the only permanently inhabited structure currently in space. It is the size of an American football field and has a crew of six. With a living volume of 358 m³, it has more interior room than the cargo beds of two American 18-wheeler trucks. However, because of the microgravity environment of the space station, there are not always well-defined walls, floors, and ceilings and all pressurized areas can be utilized as living and working space. The International Space Station is still under construction. Modules are primarily launched using the Space Shuttle and are assembled by its crew with the help of the working crew on-board the space station. ISS modules are often designed and built to barely fit inside the shuttle's payload bay, which is cylindrical with a 4.6 meter diameter.
Life aboard the space station is distinct from terrestrial life in some very interesting ways. Astronauts commonly "float" objects to one another; for example they will give a clipboard an initial nudge and it will coast to its receiver across the room. In fact, an astronaut can become so accustomed to this habit that he forgets it doesn't work anymore when he returns to Earth. The diet of ISS spacefarers is a combination of participating nations' space food
Space food
Space food is food products, specially created and processed for consumption by astronauts in outer space. The food has specific requirements of providing balanced nutrition for the health of individuals working in space, while being easy and safe to store, prepare and consume in the machinery...

. Each astronaut selects a personalized menu before flight. Many food choices reflect the cultural differences of the astronauts, such as bacon and eggs vs. fish products for breakfast (for the US and Russia, respectively). More recently such delicacies as Japanense beef curry, kimchi, and swordfish (Riviera style) have been featured on the orbiting outpost. As much of ISS food is dehydrated or sealed in pouches MRE
The Meal, Ready-to-Eat — commonly known as the MRE — is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available...

-style, astronauts are quite excited to get relatively fresh food from shuttle and Progress
Progress spacecraft
The Progress is a Russian expendable freighter spacecraft. The spacecraft is an unmanned resupply spacecraft during its flight but upon docking with a space station, it allows astronauts inside, hence it is classified manned by the manufacturer. It was derived from the Soyuz spacecraft, and is...

 resupply missions. Food is stored in packages that facilitate eating in microgravity by
keeping the food constrained to the table. Spent packaging and trash must be collected to loaded into an available spacecraft for disposal. Waste management
Waste management
Waste management is the collection, transport, processing or disposal,managing and monitoring of waste materials. The term usually relates to materials produced by human activity, and the process is generally undertaken to reduce their effect on health, the environment or aesthetics...

 is not nearly as straight forward as it is on Earth. The ISS has many windows for observing Earth and space, one of the astronauts' favorite leisure activities. Since the sun rises every 90 minutes, the windows are covered at "night" to help maintain the 24-hour sleep cycle.

When a shuttle is operating in low earth orbit, the ISS serves as a safety refuge in case of emergency
An emergency is a situation that poses an immediate risk to health, life, property or environment. Most emergencies require urgent intervention to prevent a worsening of the situation, although in some situations, mitigation may not be possible and agencies may only be able to offer palliative...

. The inability to fall back on the safety of the ISS during the latest Hubble Space Telescope
Hubble Space Telescope
The Hubble Space Telescope is a space telescope that was carried into orbit by a Space Shuttle in 1990 and remains in operation. A 2.4 meter aperture telescope in low Earth orbit, Hubble's four main instruments observe in the near ultraviolet, visible, and near infrared...

 Servicing Mission (because of different orbital inclinations) was the reason a backup shuttle was summoned to the launch pad. So, ISS astronauts operate with the mindset that they may be called upon to give sanctuary to a shuttle crew should something happen to compromise a mission. The International Space Station is a colossal cooperative project between many nations. The prevailing atmosphere on board is one of diversity and tolerance. This does not mean that it is perfectly harmonious. Astronauts experience the same frustrations and interpersonal quarrels as their Earth-based counterparts.

A typical day on the station might start with wakeup at 6:00am inside a private soundproof booth in the crew quarters. Astronauts would probably find their sleeping bags in an upright position tied to the wall, because orientation does not matter in space. The astronaut's thighs would be lifted about 50 degrees off the vertical. This is the neutral body posture in weightlessness - it would be excessively tiring to "sit" or "stand" as is common on Earth. Crawling out of his booth, an astronaut may chat with other astronauts about the day's science experiments, mission control conferences, interviews with Earthlings, and perhaps even a space walk or space shuttle arrival.

Bigelow Aerospace

Bigelow Aerospace
Bigelow Aerospace
Bigelow Aerospace is a North Las Vegas, Nevada space technology startup company that is pioneering work on expandable space station modules. Bigelow Aerospace was founded by Robert Bigelow in 1998...

 took the unique step in securing two patents NASA held from development of the Transhab concept in regard to inflatable space structures. The company now has sole rights to commercial development of the inflatable module technology. On July 12, 2006 the Genesis I experimental space habitat was launched into low earth orbit. Genesis I demonstrated the basic viability of inflatable space structures, even carrying a payload of life science experiments. The second module, Genesis II
Genesis II
Genesis II is a 1973 American TV film created and produced by Gene Roddenberry and directed by John Llewellyn Moxey.It opens with the line, "My name is Dylan Hunt...

, was launched into orbit on June 28, 2007 and tested out several improvements over its predecessor. Among these are reaction wheel assemblies, a precision measurement system for guidance, nine additional cameras, improved gas control for module inflation, and an improved on-board sensor suite.

While Bigelow architecture is still modular, the inflatable configuration allows for much more interior volume than rigid modules. The BA 330, Bigelow's full-scale production model, has more than twice the volume of the largest module on the ISS. Inflatable modules can be docked to rigid modules and are especially well suited for crew living and working quarters. NASA is considering attaching a Bigelow module to the ISS, after abandoning the Transhab concept more than a decade ago. The modules will likely have a solid inner core for structural support. Surrounding usable space could be partitioned into different rooms and floors. Bigelow Aerospace may choose to launch many of their modules independently, leasing their use to a wide variety of companies, organizations, and countries that can't afford their own space programs. Possible uses of this space include microgravity research and space manufacturing
Space manufacturing
Space manufacturing is the production of manufactured goods in an environment outside a planetary atmosphere. Typically this includes conditions of microgravity and hard vacuum.Manufacturing in space has several potential advantages over Earth-based industry....

. Or we may see a private space hotel composed of numerous Bigelow modules for rooms, observatories, or even a recreational padded gymnasium. There is the option of using such modules for habitation quarters on long-term space missions in the solar system. One amazing aspect of spaceflight is that once a craft leaves an atmosphere, aerodynamic shape is a non-issue. For instance it's possible to apply a Trans Lunar Injection
Trans Lunar Injection
A Trans Lunar Injection is a propulsive maneuver used to set a spacecraft on a trajectory which will arrive at the Moon.Typical lunar transfer trajectories approximate Hohmann transfers, although low energy transfers have also been used in some cases, as with the Hiten probe...

 to an entire space station and send it to fly by the moon. Bigelow has expressed the possibility of their modules being modified for lunar and Martian surface systems as well.


The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 architecture exists both in theory and in practice. Today the archeological artifacts of temporary human outposts lay untouched on the surface of the moon. Five Apollo Lunar Module
Apollo Lunar Module
The Apollo Lunar Module was the lander portion of the Apollo spacecraft built for the US Apollo program by Grumman to carry a crew of two from lunar orbit to the surface and back...

 descent stages stand upright in various locations across the equatorial region of the Near Side
Near side of the Moon
The near side of the Moon is the lunar hemisphere that is permanently turned towards the Earth, whereas the opposite side is the far side of the Moon. Only one side of the Moon is visible from Earth because the Moon rotates about its spin axis at the same rate that the Moon orbits the Earth, a...

, hinting at the extraterrestrial endeavors of mankind. From a distant past the moon has beckoned, rich with mystery and enigma. The leading hypothesis on the origin of the moon
Giant impact hypothesis
The giant impact hypothesis states that the Moon was created out of the debris left over from a collision between the young Earth and a Mars-sized body. The colliding body is sometimes called Theia for the mythical Greek Titan who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon.The giant impact...

 did not gain its current status until after lunar rock samples were analyzed. The moon is the furthest any humans have ever ventured from their home, and space architecture is what kept them alive and allowed them to function as humans.


On the cruise to the moon, Apollo astronauts had two "rooms" to choose from - the Command Module (CM) or the Lunar Module (LM). Indeed one can witness this in the film Apollo 13
Apollo 13 (film)
Apollo 13 is a 1995 American drama film directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles, Jr...

where the three astronauts were forced to use the LM as an emergency life boat. Passage between the two modules was possible through a pressurized docking tunnel, a major advantage over the Soviet design
LK Lander
The LK was a Soviet lunar lander and counterpart of the American Lunar Module . The LK was to have landed up to two cosmonauts on the Moon...

, which required donning a spacesuit to switch modules. The Command Module featured five windows made of three thick panes of glass. The two inner panes, made of aluminosilicate
Aluminosilicate minerals are minerals composed of aluminium, silicon, and oxygen, plus countercations. They are a major component of kaolin and other clay minerals....

, ensured no cabin air leaked into space. The outer pane served as a debris shield and part of the heat shield needed for atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric reentry
Atmospheric entry is the movement of human-made or natural objects as they enter the atmosphere of a celestial body from outer space—in the case of Earth from an altitude above the Kármán Line,...

. The CM was a sophisticated spacecraft with all the systems required for successful flight but with an interior volume of 6.17 m3 could be considered cramped for three astronauts. It had its design weaknesses such as no toilet
Space toilet
A space toilet, or zero gravity toilet, is a toilet that can be used in a weightless environment. In the absence of weight the collection and retention of liquid and solid waste is directed by use of air flow. Since the air used to direct the waste is returned to the cabin, it is filtered...

 (astronauts used much-hated 'relief tubes' and fecal bags). The coming of the space station
Space station
A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting a crew which is designed to remain in space for an extended period of time, and to which other spacecraft can dock. A space station is distinguished from other spacecraft used for human spaceflight by its lack of major propulsion or landing...

 would bring effective life support systems with waste management and water reclamation technologies.

The Lunar Module had two stages. A pressurized upper stage, termed the Ascent stage, was the first true spaceship as it could only operate in the vacuum of space. The Descent stage carried the engine used for descent, landing gear and radar, fuel and consumables,
the famous ladder, and the Lunar Rover during later Apollo missions. The idea behind staging is to reduce mass later in a flight, and is the same strategy used in an Earth-launched multistage rocket
Multistage rocket
A multistage rocket is a rocket that usestwo or more stages, each of which contains its own engines and propellant. A tandem or serial stage is mounted on top of another stage; a parallel stage is attached alongside another stage. The result is effectively two or more rockets stacked on top of or...

. The LM pilot stood up during the descent to the moon. Landing was achieved via automated control with a manual backup mode. There was no airlock
An airlock is a device which permits the passage of people and objects between a pressure vessel and its surroundings while minimizing the change of pressure in the vessel and loss of air from it...

 on the LM so the entire cabin had to be evacuated (air vented to space) in order to send an astronaut out to walk on the surface. To stay alive, both astronauts in the LM would have to get in their space suits
Apollo/Skylab A7L
The A7L Apollo & Skylab spacesuit is the primary pressure suit worn by NASA astronauts for Project Apollo, the three manned Skylab flights, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project between 1968 and the termination of the Apollo program in 1975. The "A7L" designation is used by NASA as the seventh Apollo...

 at this point. The Lunar Module worked well for what it was designed to do. However, a big unknown remained throughout the design process - the effects of lunar dust
Lunar soil
Lunar soil is the fine fraction of the regolith found on the surface of the Moon. Its properties can differ significantly from those of terrestrial soil...

. Every astronaut who walked on the moon tracked in lunar dust, contaminating the LM and later the CM during Lunar Orbit Rendezvous
Lunar orbit rendezvous
Lunar orbit rendezvous is a key concept for human landing on the Moon and returning to Earth.In a LOR mission a main spacecraft and a smaller lunar module travel together into lunar orbit. The lunar module then independently descends to the lunar surface. After completion of the mission there, a...

. These dust particles can't be brushed away in a vacuum, and have been described by John Young of Apollo 16
Apollo 16
Young and Duke served as the backup crew for Apollo 13; Mattingly was slated to be the Apollo 13 command module pilot until being pulled from the mission due to his exposure to rubella through Duke.-Backup crew:...

 as being like tiny razor blades. It was soon realized that for humans to live on the moon, dust mitigation was one of many issues that had to be taken seriously.

Project Constellation

The Exploration Systems Architecture Study
Exploration Systems Architecture Study
The Exploration Systems Architecture Study is the official title of a large-scale, system level study released by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in November 2005 in response to American president George W...

 that followed the Vision for Space Exploration
Vision for Space Exploration
The Vision for Space Exploration is the United States space policy which was announced on January 14, 2004 by President George W. Bush. It is seen as a response to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the state of human spaceflight at NASA, and a way to regain public enthusiasm for space...

 of 2004 recommended the development of a new class of vehicles that have similar capabilities to their Apollo predecessors with several key differences. In part to retain some of the Space Shuttle program workforce and ground infrastructure, the launch vehicles are to use Shuttle-derived
Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle
Shuttle-Derived Launch Vehicle, or simply Shuttle-Derived Vehicle , is a term describing one of a wide array of concepts that have been developed for creating space launch vehicles from the components, technology and/or infrastructure of the Space Shuttle program. SDVs have also been part of...

 technologies. Secondly, rather than launching the crew and cargo on the same rocket, the smaller Ares I
Ares I
Ares I was the crew launch vehicle that was being developed by NASA as part of the Constellation Program. The name "Ares" refers to the Greek deity Ares, who is identified with the Roman god Mars...

 is to launch the crew with the larger Ares V
Ares V
The Ares V was the planned cargo launch component of the Constellation program, which was to have replaced the Space Shuttle after its retirement in 2011. Ares V was also planned to carry supplies for a human presence on Mars...

 to handle the heavier cargo. The two payloads are to rendezvous in low earth orbit
Earth orbit rendezvous
Earth orbit rendezvous is a type of space rendezvous and a spaceflight methodology most notable for enabling round trip human missions to the moon...

 and then head to the moon from there. The Apollo Lunar Module could not carry enough fuel to reach the polar regions of the moon but the Altair lunar lander is being designed to access any part of the moon. While the Altair and surface systems are equally necessary for Project Constellation
Project Constellation
Constellation Program is a human spaceflight program within NASA, the space agency of the United States. The stated goals of the program were to gain significant experience in operating away from Earth's environment, develop technologies needed for opening the space frontier, and conduct...

 to reach fruition, the focus now is on developing the Orion spacecraft to shorten the gap in US access to orbit following the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010.
Even NASA has described Constellation architecture as 'Apollo on steroids'. Nonetheless, a return to the proven capsule design
Space capsule
A space capsule is an often manned spacecraft which has a simple shape for the main section, without any wings or other features to create lift during atmospheric reentry....

 is a move welcomed by many. The Orion Crew Module will have 2.5 times the interior volume of the Apollo CM and will be able to carry up to six crew member to the ISS and four to the moon. All astronauts will go to the surface of the moon and the Service Module will orbit the moon empty. As is standard practice for spacecraft, Orion will be equipped with 'almost state of the art' technology. This strategy to reduce risk by using proven technologies has been successfully demonstrated in numerous robotic missions
Robotic spacecraft
A robotic spacecraft is a spacecraft with no humans on board, that is usually under telerobotic control. A robotic spacecraft designed to make scientific research measurements is often called a space probe. Many space missions are more suited to telerobotic rather than crewed operation, due to...

. Accordingly, the CM will feature a glass cockpit
Glass cockpit
A glass cockpit is an aircraft cockpit that features electronic instrument displays, typically large LCD screens, as opposed to the traditional style of analog dials and gauges...

, automated docking, and a private unisex toilet. It will be constructed of a lightweight aluminum lithium
Al-Li alloys are a series of alloys of aluminium and lithium, often also including copper and zirconium. Since lithium is the least dense elemental metal these alloys are significantly less dense than aluminium...

 alloy and covered in a Nomex
Nomex is a registered trademark for flame resistant meta-aramid material developed in the early 1960s by DuPont and first marketed in 1967.- Properties:...

 felt-like layer for thermal protection. Like its Apollo predecessor Orion will have a launch escape system
Launch escape system
A Launch Escape System is a top-mounted rocket connected to the crew module of a crewed spacecraft and used to quickly separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case of emergency. Since the escape rockets are above the crew module, an LES typically uses separate nozzles which are...

, an ablative
Ablation is removal of material from the surface of an object by vaporization, chipping, or other erosive processes. This occurs in spaceflight during ascent and atmospheric reentry, glaciology, medicine, and passive fire protection.-Spaceflight:...

 heat shield
Heat shield
A heat shield is designed to shield a substance from absorbing excessive heat from an outside source by either dissipating, reflecting or simply absorbing the heat...

 for reentry, and parachute
A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

 recovery for water landing.

Planned stays on the surface are on the order of months rather than days. Surface systems will be more advanced than Apollo equipment and will explore the possibility of in-situ resource utilization
In-Situ Resource Utilization
In space exploration, in-situ resource utilization describes the proposed use of resources found or manufactured on other astronomical objects to further the goals of a space mission....

 (ISRU). Lunar rocks contain oxygen, silicon, and a variety of metals whose successful extraction and use in local manufacturing could revolutionize the prospects for living on the moon. If oxygen and thus rocket propellant
Rocket propellant
Rocket propellant is mass that is stored in some form of propellant tank, prior to being used as the propulsive mass that is ejected from a rocket engine in the form of a fluid jet to produce thrust. A fuel propellant is often burned with an oxidizer propellant to produce large volumes of very hot...

 oxidizer could be produced on the moon, it would create an economic incentive to develop a base, a sort of interplanetary gas station that could supply Mars-bound ships with fuel and air. The potential of using lunar regolith as a construction material similar to the way concrete is used has been suggested. Surface transport for Constellation will be more advanced than Apollo. The Lunar Electric Rover
Lunar Electric Rover
The Space Exploration Vehicle , previous designs were known as the Lunar Electric Rover and the Small Pressurized Rover , is a vehicle being designed by NASA for extra-vehicular activity on a planetary surface or in-space missions....

 with possible suitport
A suitport or suitlock is a proposed alternative to an airlock, designed for use in hazardous environments and in human spaceflight, especially planetary surface exploration.-Operation:...

s, legged walkers such as the ATHLETE
ATHLETE (robot)
The All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer is a six-legged robotic lunar rover test-bed under development by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory...

, and even habitat modules themselves could have a significant surface range. Establishing a presence on the moon is one goal of Constellation, but much of this effort is aimed at preparing for the exploration of Mars.


Martian architecture is architecture designed to sustain human life on the surface of Mars
Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after the Roman god of war, Mars. It is often described as the "Red Planet", as the iron oxide prevalent on its surface gives it a reddish appearance...

, and all the supporting systems necessary to make this possible. The direct sampling of water ice on the surface, and evidence for geyser-like water flows within the last decade have made Mars the most likely extraterrestrial environment for finding liquid water, and therefore alien life, in the solar system. Moreover some geologic evidence suggests that Mars could have been warm and wet on a global scale in its distant past. Intense geologic activity has reshaped the surface of the Earth, erasing evidence of our earliest history. Martian rocks can be even older than Earth rocks, though, so exploring Mars may help us decipher the story of our own geologic evolution including the origin of life on Earth
Abiogenesis or biopoesis is the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter through natural processes, and the method by which life on Earth arose...

. Mars has an atmosphere, though its surface pressure is less than 1% of Earth's. Its surface gravity is about 38% of Earth's. Although a human expedition to Mars has not yet taken place, there has been significant work on Martian habitat design. Martian architecture usually falls into one of two categories: architecture imported from Earth fully assembled and architecture making use of local resources.

Von Braun and other early proposals

Wernher von Braun was the first to come up with a technically compreshensive proposal for a manned Mars expedition. Rather than a minimal mission profile like Apollo, von Braun envisioned a crew of 70 astronauts aboard a fleet of ten massive spacecraft. Each vessel would be constructed in low Earth orbit, requiring nearly 100 separate launches before one was fully assembled. Seven of the spacecraft would be for crew while three were designated as cargo ships. There were even designs for small "boats" to shuttle crew and supplies between ships during the cruise to the Red Planet, which was to follow a minimum-energy Hohmann transfer trajectory. This mission plan would involve one-way transit times on the order of eight months and a long stay at Mars, creating the need for long-term living accommodations in space. Upon arrival at the Red Planet, the fleet would brake into Mars orbit and would remain there until the seven human vessels were ready to return to Earth. Only landing gliders
Glider aircraft
Glider aircraft are heavier-than-air craft that are supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of the air against their lifting surfaces, and whose free flight does not depend on an engine. Mostly these types of aircraft are intended for routine operation without engines, though engine failure can...

, which were stored in the cargo ships, and their associated ascent stages would travel to the surface. Inflatable habitats would be constructed on the surface along with a landing strip to facilitate further glider landings. All necessary propellant and consumables were to be brought from Earth in von Braun's proposal. Some crew remained in the passenger ships during the mission for orbit-based observation of Mars and to maintain the ships. The passenger ships had habitation spheres 20 meters in diameter. Because the average crew member would spend much time in these ships (around 16 months of transit plus rotating shifts in Mars orbit), habitat design for the ships was an integral part of this mission.
Von Braun was aware of the threat posed by extended exposure to weightlessness. He suggested either tethering passenger ships together to spin about a common center of mass or including self-rotating, dumbbell-shaped "gravity cells" to drift alongside the flotilla to provide each crew member with a few hours of artificial gravity each day. At the time of von Braun's proposal, little was known of the dangers of solar radiation beyond Earth and it was cosmic radiation that was thought to present the more formidable challenge. The discovery of the Van Allen belts in 1958 demonstrated that the Earth was shielded from high energy solar particles. For the surface portion of the mission, inflatable habitats suggest the desire to maximize living space. It is clear von Braun considered the members of the expedition part of a community with much traffic and interaction between vessels.

The Soviet Union conducted studies of human exploration of Mars and came up with slightly less epic mission designs (though not short on exotic technologies) in 1960 and 1969. The first of which used electric propulsion for interplanetary transit and nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

s as the power plants. On spacecraft that combine human crew and nuclear reactors, the reactor is usually placed at a maximum distance from the crew quarters, often at the end of a long pole, for radiation safety. An interesting component of the 1960 mission was the surface architecture. A "train" with wheels for rough terrain was to be assembled of landed research modules, one of which was a crew cabin. The train was to traverse the surface of Mars from south pole to north pole, an extremely ambitious goal even by today's standards. Other Soviet plans such as the TMK
TMK was the designation of a Soviet Union space exploration project to send a manned flight to Mars and Venus without landing....

 eschewed the large costs associated with landing on the Martian surface and advocated piloted (manned) flybys of Mars. Flyby missions, like the lunar Apollo 8
Apollo 8
Apollo 8, the second manned mission in the American Apollo space program, was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth orbit; the first to be captured by and escape from the gravitational field of another celestial body; and the first crewed voyage to return to Earth from another celestial...

, extend the human presence to other worlds with less risk than landings. Most early Soviet proposals called for launches using the ill-fated N1 rocket
N1 rocket
N-1 was a heavy lift rocket intended to deliver payloads beyond low Earth orbit, acting as the Soviet counterpart to the NASA Saturn V rocket. This heavy lift booster had the capability of lifting very heavy loads into orbit, designed with manned extra-orbital travel in mind...

. They also usually involved fewer crew than their American counterparts. Early Martian architecture concepts generally featured assembly in low earth orbit, bringing all needed consumables from Earth, and designated work vs. living areas. The modern outlook on Mars exploration is not the same.

Recent initiatives

In every serious study of what it would take to land humans on Mars, keep them alive, and then return them to Earth, the total mass required for the mission is simply stunning. The problem lies in that to launch the amount of consumables (oxygen, food and water) even a small crew would go through during a multi-year Mars mission, it would take a very large rocket with the vast majority of its own mass being propellant. This is where multiple launches and assembly in Earth orbit come from. However even if such a ship stocked full of goods could be put together in orbit, it would need an additional (large) supply of propellant to send it to Mars. The delta-v
In astrodynamics a Δv or delta-v is a scalar which takes units of speed. It is a measure of the amount of "effort" that is needed to change from one trajectory to another by making an orbital maneuver....

, or change in velocity, required to insert a spacecraft from Earth orbit to a Mars transfer orbit
Hohmann transfer orbit
In orbital mechanics, the Hohmann transfer orbit is an elliptical orbit used to transfer between two circular orbits, typically both in the same plane....

 is many kilometers per second. When we think of getting astronauts to the surface of Mars and back home we quickly realize that an enormous amount of propellant is needed if everything is taken from the Earth. This was the conclusion reached in the 1989 '90-Day Study' initiated by NASA in response to the Space Exploration Initiative
Space Exploration Initiative
On July 20, 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, George H. W. Bush — then President of the United States — announced plans for what came to be known as the Space Exploration Initiative...

Several techniques have changed the outlook on Mars exploration. The most powerful of which is in-situ resource utilization. Using hydrogen imported from Earth and carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, the Sabatier reaction
Sabatier reaction
The Sabatier reaction or Sabatier process involves the reaction of hydrogen with carbon dioxide at elevated temperatures and pressures in the presence of a nickel catalyst to produce methane and water. Optionally ruthenium on alumina makes a more efficient catalyst...

 can be used to manufacture methane
Methane is a chemical compound with the chemical formula . It is the simplest alkane, the principal component of natural gas, and probably the most abundant organic compound on earth. The relative abundance of methane makes it an attractive fuel...

 (for rocket propellant) and water (for drinking and for oxygen production through electrolysis
In chemistry and manufacturing, electrolysis is a method of using a direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction...

). Another technique to reduce Earth-brought propellant requirements is aerobraking
Aerobraking is a spaceflight maneuver that reduces the high point of an elliptical orbit by flying the vehicle through the atmosphere at the low point of the orbit . The resulting drag slows the spacecraft...

. Aerobraking involves skimming the upper layers of an atmosphere, over many passes, to slow a spacecraft down. It's a time-intensive process that shows most promise in slowing down cargo shipments of food and supplies. NASA's Constellation program does call for landing humans on Mars after a permanent base on the moon is demonstrated, but details of the base architecture are far from established. It is likely that the first permanent settlement will consist of consecutive crews landing prefabricated habitat modules in the same location and linking them together to form a base.

In some of these modern, economy models of the Mars mission, we see the crew size reduced to a minimal 4 or 6. Such a loss in variety of social relationships can lead to challenges in forming balanced social responses and forming a complete sense of identity. It follows that if long-duration missions are to be carried out with very small crews, then intelligent selection of crew is of primary importance. Role assignments is another open issue in Mars mission planning. The primary role of 'pilot' is obsolete when landing takes only a few minutes of a mission lasting hundreds of days, and when that landing will be automated anyway. Assignment of roles will depend heavily on the work to be done on the surface and will require astronauts to assume multiple responsibilities. As for surface architecture inflatable habitats, perhaps even provided by Bigelow Aerospace, remain a possible option for maximizing living space. In later missions, bricks could be made from a Martian regolith mixture for shielding or even primary, airtight structural components. The environment on Mars offers different opportunities for space suit
Space suit
A space suit is a garment worn to keep an astronaut alive in the harsh environment of outer space. Space suits are often worn inside spacecraft as a safety precaution in case of loss of cabin pressure, and are necessary for extra-vehicular activity , work done outside spacecraft...

 design, even something like the skin-tight Bio-Suit. A human mission to Mars is also an opportunity to include men on a major exploration mission. Space architecture can allow humanity to send a truly diverse and representative crew on its first expedition to another planet.


It is widely accepted that robotic reconnaissance and trail-blazer missions will precede human exploration of other worlds. Making an informed decision on which specific destinations warrant sending human explorers requires more data than what the best Earth-based telescopes can provide. For example landing site selection for the Apollo landings drew on data from three different robotic programs: the Ranger program
Ranger program
The Ranger program was a series of unmanned space missions by the United States in the 1960s whose objective was to obtain the first close-up images of the surface of the Moon. The Ranger spacecraft were designed to take images of the lunar surface, returning those images until they were destroyed...

, the Lunar Orbiter program
Lunar Orbiter program
The Lunar Orbiter program was a series of five unmanned lunar orbiter missions launched by the United States from 1966 through 1967. Intended to help select Apollo landing sites by mapping the Moon's surface, they provided the first photographs from lunar orbit.All five missions were successful,...

, and the Surveyor program
Surveyor program
The Surveyor Program was a NASA program that, from 1966 through 1968, sent seven robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon. Its primary goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon...

. Before a human was sent, robotic spacecraft mapped the lunar surface, proved the feasibility of soft landings, filmed the terrain up close with television cameras, and scooped and analysed the soil.

A robotic exploration mission is generally designed to carry a wide variety of scientific instruments, ranging from cameras sensitive to particular wavelengths, telescopes, spectrometers, radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

 devices, accelerometers, radiometers, and particle detectors to name a few. The function of these instruments is usually to return scientific data but it can also be to give an intuitive "feel" of the state of the spacecraft, allowing a subconscious familiarization with the territory being explored, through telepresence
Telepresence refers to a set of technologies which allow a person to feel as if they were present, to give the appearance of being present, or to have an effect, via telerobotics, at a place other than their true location....

. A good example of this is the inclusion of HDTV cameras on the Japanese lunar orbiter SELENE
SELENE , better known in Japan by its nickname after the legendary Japanese moon princess, was the second Japanese lunar orbiter spacecraft. Produced by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science and the National Space Development Agency , both now part of the Japan Aerospace Exploration...

. While purely scientific instruments could have been brought in their stead, these cameras allow the use of an innate sense to perceive the exploration of the moon.

The modern, balanced approach to exploring an extraterrestrial destination involves several phases of exploration, each of which needs to produce rationale for progressing to the next phase. The phase immediately preceding human exploration can be described as anthropocentric sensing, that is, sensing designed to give humans as realistic a feeling as possible of actually exploring in person. More, the line between a human system and a robotic system in space is not always going to be clear. As a general rule, the more formidable the environment, the more essential robotic technology is. Robotic systems can be broadly considered part of space architecture when their purpose is to facilitate the habitation of space or extend the range of the physiological senses into space.


The future of space architecture hinges on the colonization of space. Under the historical model of government-orchestrated exploration missions initiated by single political administrations
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

, space structures are likely to be limited to small-scale habitats and orbital modules with design life cycles of only several years or decades. The designs, and thus architecture, will generally be fixed and without real time feedback from the spacefarers themselves. The technology to repair and upgrade existing habitats, a practice widespread on Earth, is not likely to be developed under short term exploration goals. If exploration takes on a multi-administration or international character, the prospects for space architecture development by the inhabitants themselves will be broader. Private space tourism
Space tourism
Space Tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry...

 is a way the development of space and a space transportation infrastructure can be accelerated. Virgin Galactic has indicated plans for an orbital craft, SpaceShipThree. The demand for space tourism is one without bound. It is not difficult to imagine lunar parks or cruises by Venus
Venus is the second planet from the Sun, orbiting it every 224.7 Earth days. The planet is named after Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. After the Moon, it is the brightest natural object in the night sky, reaching an apparent magnitude of −4.6, bright enough to cast shadows...

. Another impetus to become a spacefaring species is planetary defense.

The classic space mission is the Earth-colliding asteroid
Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones...

 interception mission. Using nuclear detonations
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

 to split or deflect the asteroid is risky at best. Such a tactic could actually make the problem worse by increasing the amount of asteroid fragments that do end up hitting the Earth. Robert Zubrin
Robert Zubrin
Robert Zubrin is an American aerospace engineer and author, best known for his advocacy of the manned exploration of Mars. He was the driving force behind Mars Direct—a proposal intended to produce significant reductions in the cost and complexity of such a mission...


If such a crew is to be summoned to a distant asteroid, there may be less risky ways to divert the asteroid. Another promising asteroid mitigation strategy is to land a crew on the asteroid well ahead of its impact date and to begin diverting some its mass into space to slowly alter its trajectory. This is a form of rocket propulsion by virtue of Newton's third law with the asteroid's mass as the propellant. Whether exploding nuclear weapons or diversion of mass is used, a sizable human crew may need to be sent into space for many months if not years to accomplish this mission. Questions such as what the astronauts will live in and what the ship will be like are questions for the space architect.

When motivations to go into space are realized, work on mitigating the most serious threats can begin. One of the biggest threats to astronaut safety in space is sudden radiation events from solar flares. The violent solar storm of August 1972, which occurred between the Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 missions, could have produced fatal consequences had astronauts been caught exposed on the lunar surface. The best known protection against radiation in space is shielding; an especially effective shield is water contained in large tanks surrounding the astronauts. Unfortunately water has a mass of 1000 kilograms per cubic meter. A more practical approach would be to construct solar "storm shelters" that spacefarers can retreat to during peak events. For this to work, however, there would need to be a space weather
Space weather
Space weather is the concept of changing environmental conditions in near-Earth space or thespace from the Sun's atmosphere to the Earth's atmosphere. It is distinct from the concept ofweather within the Earth's planetary atmosphere...

 broadcasting system in place to warn astronauts of upcoming storms, much like a tsunami warning system
Tsunami warning system
A Tsunami warning system is used to detect tsunamis in advance and issue warnings to prevent loss of life and damage. It consists of two equally important components: a network of sensors to detect tsunamis and a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation of coastal...

 warns coastal inhabitants of impending danger. Perhaps one day a fleet of robotic spacecraft will orbit close to the sun, monitoring solar activity and sending precious minutes of warning before waves of dangerous particles arrive at inhabited regions of space.

Nobody knows what the long-term human future in space will be. Perhaps after gaining experience with routine spaceflight by exploring different worlds in the solar system and deflecting a few asteroids, the possibility of constructing non-modular space habitats and infrastructure will be within capability. Such possibilities include mass drivers on the moon, which launch payloads into space using only electricity, and spinning space colonies with closed ecological system
Closed ecological system
Closed ecological systems are ecosystems that do not rely on matter exchange with any part outside the system.The term is most often used to describe small manmade ecosystems...

s. A Mars in the early stages of terraformation
Terraforming of a planet, moon, or other body is the hypothetical process of deliberately modifying its atmosphere, temperature, surface topography or ecology to be similar to those of Earth, in order to make it habitable by terrestrial organisms.The term is sometimes used more generally as a...

, where inhabitants only need simple oxygen masks to walk out on the surface, may be seen. In any case, such futures require space architecture.

See also

  • Aerospace architecture
    Aerospace architecture
    Aerospace architecture is broadly defined to encompass architectural design of non-habitable and habitable structures and living and working environments in aerospace-related facilities, habitats, and vehicles...

  • Planetary surface construction
    Planetary surface construction
    Planetary Surface Construction refers to artificial habitats and other structures constructed on the surface of other planets than Earth, asteroids, and other heavenly bodies...

  • Space tourism
    Space tourism
    Space Tourism is space travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. A number of startup companies have sprung up in recent years, hoping to create a space tourism industry...

  • Space colonization
    Space colonization
    Space colonization is the concept of permanent human habitation outside of Earth. Although hypothetical at the present time, there are many proposals and speculations about the first space colony...

External links

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