Thales Alenia Space, a French company, is embarking on a historic mission to create a lunar module known as the Multi-Purpose Habitat (MPH), with the goal of establishing the “first permanent outpost on the Moon.” In collaboration with the Italian Space Agency (ASI), an agreement has been signed to design this habitation module, marking a significant milestone for Italy in lunar exploration.
The MPH recently passed NASA’s Element Initiation Review in October, recognizing its “crucial functionalities” within the Artemis program’s lunar surface architecture. The Artemis program, a joint effort between NASA and ASI initiated in 2020, aims to establish a sustainable human presence on the Moon as a stepping stone for future Mars missions.
“MPH will mark a historic milestone as the first Italian habitation module to operate on the lunar surface. This is a matter of great pride for our company, which has the unique technical and organizational skills to overcome challenges of this kind,” said Franco Fenoglio, Head of human planetary exploration and robotics programs at Thales Alenia Space, in an official press release.
To address the challenges of lunar habitation, the MPH is crucial in providing life-support solutions for astronauts, safeguarding them from space radiation, extreme lunar temperatures, and the abrasive lunar regolith. Thales Alenia Space emphasizes the need for a “secure, comfortable, and multifunctional habitation module for astronauts,” highlighting the immense responsibility of creating a technologically advanced and secure lunar habitat.
The MPH’s design features a prototype cylindrical structure with sleek legs and solar arrays, although detailed information about its configuration remains limited. The next step in the project involves the Mission Concept Review (MCR), scheduled for the first quarter of 2024. Successful completion of the MCR is considered a key milestone, propelling the project toward critical technology design and module development phases.
“This will be a key milestone to move the project forward to the next phases of critical technology design and development of the module,” noted the release.
While specific deployment timelines and costs are undisclosed, the launch of the MPH is not anticipated before the 2030s. Thales Alenia Space envisions contributing to scientific and technological advancements, constructing the first Italian human outpost on the lunar surface to support broader human space exploration endeavors on the Moon and beyond.
The press release mentions: “Our purpose is to lead scientific and technological development in constructing the first Italian human outpost on the lunar surface to enhance and support human space exploration on the Moon and beyond.”
The MPH project underscores the collaborative efforts of international space agencies in advancing lunar exploration and establishing a sustainable human presence beyond Earth.