NASA Ames Research Center  + Visit the NASA portal Site Accessibility Notes
 banner, includes moonscape

Lunar Research Station Design Challenge

Final Design
Mr. McKinsey, Pleasant Valley Intermediate
Submitted and revised by Jonathan, Emily, Jon H., Brandon L., Tiffany,
Samantha W., Kaitlyn, and John B.
McKinsey’s Moon Maniacs

Revised Explanations for Lunar Research Station Design

Note: These revised explanations attempt to answer Ben Corbin’s concerns about the station design. They show further thought and more research. A lot of this was really hard to think about!

  • Location

            The location that we picked is Crater Peary. Crater Peary is located at the North Pole of the Moon. We chose the location for several reasons. By putting the Station into the wall of the Crater, we protect if from direct heat, radiation, and impacts from meteorites. The Crater Peary has areas that are permanently in shadow and areas that are always sunlit. The sunlit parts are called the Peaks of Eternal Light. They are called this because they receive direct sunlight all the time. This makes them useful for solar power.

            Our teacher found research from the Clementine mission that shows the crater in sunlight most of the time.

picture showing % illumination

Chart from

            This chart shows that some parts of the crater are in sunlight all the time. Even if the sunlight is weak, having a steady flow of power into the panels will provide energy for our Station.

            Our Station is on the lit side of the crater. We will use solar panels to power most of the Station. Crater Peary may have water ice in it, which we could melt for use. We would use it for grey water, but if it was clean enough, we could drink it.

            Before we build in the crater, we would send a probe from earth to make sure the crater is not too deep, since we don’t know now how deep it is. We know the crater is 73 km wide, which makes it big enough to have lots of places in it to explore.

            Out station is shaped like the letter T, with the horizontal part called the Aft Section (Starboard and Port sides) and the vertical part called the Forward Section. We buried the Aft Section of the station in the side of the crater so that the regolith would provide insulation and radiation protection. The Forward Section of the station sticks out into open space of the crater so we could have sunlit rooms. The Forward Section sits on top of the regolith we dug out of the crater wall to make room for the Aft Section, so we don’t have to use a lot of metal to support it.

            One tunnel connects a surface storage and garage building with the Station. Another tunnel goes further down into the regolith for a waste treatment plant and for a place to store hazardous stuff.

            Wide stairs leads down from the Station to the crater floor, where one lunar buggy stays. These stairs are wide enough and low enough for scientists in spacesuits to bunny hop up and down without a lot of effort. They would use the lunar buggy at the bottom of the stairs to explore the crater floor and bring back samples. They would also look for water ice.

                        --Submitted and revised by Tiffany, Jon H., Adrianna and Brandon P.

  • Station Crew Members

            We decided to put seven technicians, scientists and engineers at our Station. This number comes from figuring out that we need only 2 Orion launch vehicles on the Moon for emergency escape. The Orion design we found online has a lunar crew of 4, so two Orion rockets would hold up to 8 astronauts. More astronauts would need more escape vehicles, which would be very expensive.

            Having seven Station members means we only need four bedrooms (two members per room with one private room for the Commander, who is also a technician). This also allows for one geologist and one chemist. The Station would always have at least 3 members inside.

            The final count for the jobs is two scientists (geologist and chemist, 1 technician who is also a chef, 1 communications technician who can also drive the lunar buggy, a gardener/botanist to run the greenhouse, and 1 commander who is also a technician for repairs, running the waste treatment plant, and who can use the radio.

            The gardener might seem funny, but the greenhouse is really important. It cleans our air inside the Station, provides green plants to look at (astronauts on the ISS love green things), and provides food. It is too important a job to leave as part of somebody else’s job.

            Like Navy Seals, or Army Rangers, the team members should be experts in one thing but have overlapping responsibilities so if someone got sick another person could do their job, like working the waste treatment plant or driving the lunar buggy.

                        --contributed and revised by Emily, Thomas, Jon H., Adrianna and Tiffany

  • Station Design

            The station will be partly inside the wall of Crater Peary. To dig out the space for it, we would send robotic diggers ahead of the people. It will take a long time to dig out the space for the Aft section and the two tunnels. The robotic diggers have treads like tanks. They would have a drill and shovels to dig out the regolith. Since they are robots, you wouldn’t have to worry about their safety. They could be nuclear powered.

            After the robots make the dugout, we can send up sections of the Station inside the Ares rockets. The first section would be the Aft section inside the crater wall. Then the two tunnels, and last, the Forward section that sticks out into the crater.

            The station is shaped like a giant T. The Aft section is the cross part of the T, and the Forward section is the up-and-down part of the T. They intersect and attach together. They are built as sections on earth and lifted to the moon inside the Ares rocket.

            We put the Aft Section of the station into the side of Crater Peary’s crater wall so the regolith would insulate it and keep radiation out. We put the Forward Section of the station out into the crater so light would reach it, providing energy through solar panels, windows for the crew to look out, and a bright, sunny inside. It also makes a good place to do observations. All windows and greenhouse panels are made from Lexan plastic.

            We are making the walls out of aircraft aluminum, because it’s lightweight, thin and strong.

            Each tubular section is 4.5 meters wide, with double-hull walls 0.25 meters thick to carry pipes, cables, and wires. The double-hull walls themselves are each as thick as rocket fuselages (since NASA already knows how to build those) and are separated by about 23 cms. Inside that 23 cm space, you run all the pipes, wires and cables so they’re not in the way. Each tubular section holds two or more rooms.

            On the Aft Section of the station, we put in four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and the communications room. We also have access to the two tunnels, a spacesuit storage room, and a room for privacy. We based the privacy room on scream rooms used by people working in hospitals and hospice places, for getting rid of stress. It is soundproof so Station members can unwind without bothering anyone else.

            The laboratory for research is split between the Aft and Forward Sections of the Station. This gives light for experiments and research that needs sunlight, but also allows controlled darkness for other experiments. We plan to have a glovebox and containment system inside the laboratory so Moon samples can be isolated. We won’t contaminate them with our earth germs.

            The kitchen, greenhouse, combination recreation room & dining room, and exercise room are all in the Forward Section, the sunlit side of the Station.

            We looked at South Pole research stations, prisons, underwater research stations, and mountain climbing base camps when we researched our design. These are all places with small spaces, a lot of stress, and important jobs.

            The Station is built in prefabricated sections that are smaller than the diameter of the Ares rocket—5.03 meters. That way, you could launch the Lunar Station inside the rocket stages. You would need 5 or 6 sections to build the Station.

                        --Submitted and revised by Amanda, Courtney, John N., and Nikolas

  • Energy & Life Support

            We will get electricity by using solar panels in the crater, and on the sunlit Forward Section of the Station. We will also use nuclear power for backup and for when we need a lot of power. The lunar buggies will plug in when we’re not using them, so they can recharge their batteries.

            For waste management, first we will collect the waste in a waste treatment plant. We will recycle all the water. We will use the cleaned water for plants and humidity control in the Station. If the astronauts are willing to, they could drink it, too. We will clean the air with the greenhouse plants and carbon dioxide scrubbers (like on the Space Transportation System orbiter). Solid waste will be superheated to kill germs and then used as fertilizer in the greenhouse.

            Any waste that we can’t reuse will be sent to earth in a very small capsule that can be launched safely from the Moon. The capsule will burn up in the earth’s atmosphere so it won’t hurt anybody.

                        --Submitted and revised by Allison, Anthony, Samantha, and Vincent

  • Protection and Contamination Prevention

            We saw a DVD about NASA using spacesuits that never come inside the lunar buggies or stations. The astronauts and scientists get into them from the back. We could do that. We could also use disposable plastic that fits over all the equipment to protect them from regolith. We know the regolith cuts up visors and ruins the ball bearings in suits, so it will be really important to keep those parts clean.

            We may need bottled gas to blow regolith off things as we work.




Explanation for the model and photographs

We made a concept model instead of a realistic model. Our model doesn’t look like the actual moon.  We show how part of the Research Station is buried inside the regolith of Crater Peary. Half is sticking out from the crater wall. Each meter on the actual Research Station is 2 centimeters on the model.

Mr. McKinsey asked us to hold our model so you could see how proud we are of our work.

General drawing of entire Lunar Research Station

drawing of the entire research station
starboard side of aft section

port side of aft section

floor plan of forward section




pipes and wiring and ventilation ducts

          Scale: 2 cm = 1.0 meters

Cross Section of 4.5-meter diameter Lunar Research Station Module.

            This shows how you can have a 4.5-meter diameter outer shell that fits on an Ares rocket, an inner shell 0.25 meters from the outer shell, and then inside living space 3.0 meters wide and 3.0 meters tall. You can put all the pipes and electrical wires in the spaces from the interior walls to the inner shell. The thick shells will keep the Station insulated. We put in pictures of the STS-121 crewmembers to show you the scale. 

            This design works for both Stations by McKinsey’s Moon Maniacs and Cogan’s Courageous Crew.

 FirstGov  NASA

NASA Official: Mark León
Last Updated: May 2005
+ Contact Us