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A house on the moon for the ape that came down from the trees


It may not be noticeable, but we are riding on a spaceship called Earth. There are many things that ship carries, and the most unique is our species. Our species r

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It may not be noticeable, but we are riding on a spaceship called Earth. There are many things that ship carries, and the most unique is our species.

Our ridiculous species that, as the wise Stoics and Christian theologians will sentence, lives little more than mold, growing a time to disappear without a trace. But also our triumphant species that, against all biological forecasts, has placed objects between the celestial orbits, before transporting itself - rockets, capsules and ferries - out of its ancestral mother ship. This June marks 50 years of the arrival on the Moon, and the force of the event has once again put on the table the old illusion of space travel, today updated in a new technocratic utopia: the colonization of other planets.

As in that famous Tintin cover, the objective is once again the Moon. But the ambition of yesteryear has grown. It is no longer about nailing flags in the stony crust of our satellite, as the emerging powers continue to ambitious in their childish cosmic nationalism. It is something really heroic: make the Moon the seat of a new civilization. A civilization built with an unprecedented architecture , the first on a ground other than Earth.

How will this lunar architecture, this extraterrestrial architecture? We already have some more or less predictable answers, such as the pressurized modules that American engineering SOM has conceived and the naive colonies that designers from around the world recently submitted to the 'Moontopia' contest . But the most likely is that of Norman Foster, the last of the great technocratic masters of the twentieth century and perhaps one of the few architects who still believes in the modern idea of progress . The interesting thing about Foster's project is that, despite its extraordinary purpose, and despite the prominence that the British always grants to details, it lacks formally the luster that would be expected of a cosmic construction. Or, at least, of what would be expected taking as reference the aesthetic sublimated by Kubrick in 2001: Odyssey in space . Foster's building on the Moon is neither white nor gleaming, nor is it smart as Hal 9000. Formed by an organic twin of mineral powder coated hemispheres, the Lunar Habitation will remind some of them an ash-stained igloo, and others will seem like a Boring version of Luke Skywalker's postmodern cave on the remote planet Tatooine.

Extraterrestrial grotto that recalls that the essential function of architecture is to shelter, Foster's Lunar Habitation has a fundamentally technological interest. Its merit is in connecting with tino very diverse knowledge and artifacts. First, the rockets that would propel the base module of the building to the moon, a metal cylinder. Then, the plastic membranes that, deployed from the cylinder, would swell to form the formwork of a hemispherical dome. Also, the 3D and robotic printing that would use regolith - the lunar dust - to coat that dome with a thick insulating layer . And finally, the applied chemistry that would allow obtaining in situ the water and fuel necessary for the survival of the colony. It is a collection of very complex solutions that, without paying too much attention to Architecture , respond with ingenuity to a borderline problem: how to build in a place that is so far away that the transport of each screw in the rocket costs a potosí ?

'Mars Ice', image by Bjarke Ingels.

Practicing distance architecture is also the problem of the most visionary version of extraterrestrial colonies: the Martians. The end of the moon landings in 1972 led to the dream of reaching the red planet to an unreal dimension, as of series B, in which it remained for decades. It is from this limbo that the mogul Elon Musk has taken it now, which proposes to take to Mars a kind of space bus capable of transporting up to 200 millionaire cosmonauts every 26 months. Which Enterprise or Millennium Falcon , Musk's Starship , crossing the cosmic void at 27,000 kilometers per hour, could connect Earth with the first Martian colony. A dream - that of the colony on Mars - that, like so many other things, anticipated science fiction, and that NASA and some restless or perhaps opportunistic architects like Bjarke Ingels now aspire to realize.

The ice of Mars

NASA's project, Mars Ice , is very similar to Foster's Lunar Habitation . It is made up of a series of modules built with ice instead of lunar dust, and in which ice would also be used as a source of food and fuel. For its part, Mars Science City , the Ingels utopia, could function as a worthy 4.0 scenario for the Arnold Schwarzenegger Total Challenge . Coated with regolith on the outside to protect its inhabitants from radiation, and planted on the inside with a vegetation of terrestrial invasive species (palm trees on Mars!), The extraterrestrial city of Ingels would delight a Reyner Banham or a Peter Sloterdijk . Its large hermetic domes, a symbol of the idea of ​​the ultra-artificial interior, would house a radically new ecosystem, and would materialize in passing the old human aspiration to become habitable - to exploit it - every inch of available space. The same nomadic and parasitic aspiration that induced our ancestors - the monkeys with ínfulas - to leave the treetops to end up riding in rockets, beyond the sublunar world.

It is difficult to resist the optimism of projects such as those of Foster and Ingels, and their extraterrestrial architectures that combine formal essentialism and high technology. But this does not take away to ask to what extent - beyond the long-term technological profitability - the dream of the lunar and Martian colonies is worth it, and what ideology - beyond technocracy - encourages it. Driven by large corporations and tycoons, that of the extraterrestrial colonies is an elitist dream that perhaps conceals a nightmare, and, in this sense, one should pay attention to Bruno Latour when, in his recent and disturbing book Où terrify , he affirms that the classes Leaders have concluded that there is no space on Earth for them and the rest of its inhabitants. It may sound a bit like cheap catastrophism or anti-system millenarianism , but the thesis of the French philosopher has the virtue of returning us to reality. The reality that we literally step on. With its great ecological and demographic problems, it is the Earth and not the space - it is the old ship that transports us and not the one, less efficient, which we want to reach - that must remain the main object of our efforts. Since we got off the tree, progress has been to fly farther and farther; Today the challenge is to land.

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