EPSC 2018: Origami opens up smart options for architecture on the Moon and Mars
September 21, 2018

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

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 origami 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.

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 habitat 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.

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.”

Further information
The EuroMoonMars 2018 team thanks ILEWG for supporting its activities and ESA/ESTEC for providing field test opportunities and technical expertise.


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

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

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

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


Anna Sitnikova

Media Contacts
Anita Heward
Europlanet/EPSC 2018 Communications Officer

Livia Giacomini
Europlanet/EPSC 2018 Communications Officer

Notes for Editors

EPSC 2018
The European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) 2018 (www.epsc2018.eu) is taking place at the Technische Universität (TU) Berlin, from Sunday 16 to Friday 21 September 2018. EPSC is the major European annual meeting on planetary science. Around 1000 scientists from Europe and around the world will attend EPSC 2018 and will give around 1,250 oral and poster presentations about the latest results on our own Solar System and planets orbiting other stars.

Details of the Congress and a full schedule of EPSC 2018 scientific sessions and events can be found at the official website: http://www.epsc2018.eu/

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