The First Moon Landing, Fifty Years On

  • What's next in the evolving space industry
  • Physics & Astronomy feature on aerospace research
  • Expert insights from a former Apollo engineer & specialist in aerospace design

Q&A with Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger

Read an interview with Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger, a practicing architect with space-craft Architektur and expert in habitability design solutions for extreme environments, and teaches and _EK_4536 © Springerresearches at the Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Architecture and Design. 

She has published several scientific papers and worked on aerospace design and research projects, as PI, collaborator, manager and initiator. Sandra’s research expertise is Habitability Design in Extreme Environments. She uses cross-program comparison and analysis of inhabited isolated, confined and extreme environments (ICEs) on Earth and Space from a human perspective as a basis for the systematic assessment of existing and future living and working environments in space. Her work incorporates several data collection methods including personal interviews with astronauts, polar researchers and simulation members. 

She was principal investigator of the ‘HI-SEAS Habitability Study’ during the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog Simulation Mission. Sandra is a newly elected corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). 

(photo by Ernst Kainersdorfer)

Do you remember where you were on 20 July 1969? What is your recollection of the Apollo 11 moon landing?

I was born a few years after the first human put his foot onto the lunar surface. SPSN-Apollo-Sandra blog © SpringerWhen I was born, the last Apollo mission was over and the first space station Skylab was already in orbit and inhabited by three astronauts. The Skylab space station was huge in diameter, compared to today’s space station. 

There is a video of Alan Bean and Jack Lousma running around the space station. It is a wonderful interpretation of a scene from Odyssey 2001 and the idea of being weightlessness still fascinates me (image on the left, from page 269, Architecture for Astronauts).


In your opinion, how do you think space exploration has transformed, 50 years on from the successful Apollo 11 mission?

A lot of dreams have become reality and space exploration has become a joint adventure of all Earth citizens. Today astronauts come from all around the world and live together in a truly international space station. The relatively new idea of an international and multicultural Moon village has gained momentum, leading to international discussions and activities, and the development of new networks.

Since the Apollo missions the architecture of spacecraft and stations has steadily improved with the Salyut, Mir, Tiangong and the orbiting International space station. A lot of hardware and equipment has been developed, built, tested and innovated, including facilities associated with habitability, such as life support systems, food systems and health. 

Today, we have the unique chance to learn from the experiences of the past explorers. Only about 600 astronauts have occupied a place beyond our Earth. This experience offers a fascinating field to investigate the relationship between the built environment and its users. 
Living and working in such habitats means being potentially vulnerable to very harsh environmental, social, and psychological, conditions. With the stringent technical specifications for launch vehicles and transport into space, a very tight framework for the creation of habitable space is set. These constraints result in a very demanding “partnership” between the habitat and the inhabitant.

The idea of extracting design principles from the extreme conditions of astronauts was the starting point for my first book Architecture for Astronauts.

Tell us more about the two Springer publications “Architecture for Astronauts” and “Space Architecture Education for Engineers and Architects”

The book Architecture for Astronauts – An Activity based Approach is an analysis of habitation in all relevant American and Russian realized extra-terrestrial habitats: The Apollo Spacecraft and Lunar Module, the Space Shuttle Orbiter, and the Space Stations; Salyut, Skylab, Mir, as well as the International Space Station. 

What makes the book outstanding, informative and enjoyable is its fine and clear in-book ‘navigation system’. Following an overview of the architecture and configuration, the book takes a closer look at the five human activities in relation to the built environment. Those are given a strong primary colour tab on the left and right side of each page; appropriately blue for sleep, yellow for hygiene, green for food preparation, red for work and indigo for leisure. This visual aid is then used in each plan or cross section for all the space stations analysed. Each chapter confronts the personal experiences of the astronauts and cosmonauts, from my personal interviews, with findings from relevant literature and analysis.

My second book Space Architecture Education for Engineers and Architects – Designing and Planning Beyond Earth is an educational book and targeted for students of architecture and engineering, interested in space architecture. The book is co-authored with Olga Bannova from the University of Houston and fills a gap between the engineering approach to design habitation facilities and the complexity of human factors oriented design. The book is structured around basic learning processes for the design of a space mission, structure or vehicle. The chapters on the design principles are related to the Technology Readiness levels and Habitation Readiness Levels – TRLs and HRLs and include examples, discussions, and tasks. A number of guest chapters with examples of current space projects and relevant topics further increase the value of the book. 

Why is this research area on aerospace architecture important? 

First of all, there is still a huge potential for improving space-craft habitability. In order to successfully create a sustainable, functional and liveable piece of outer-space architecture a lot of research and design work still has to be accomplished. 

In addition those insights and lessons learned can be emulated in order to developing innovation for future compact living spaces here on Earth. In my architectural and design office space-craft Architektur, we use a lot of this research to pro¬vide input on current issues: Living in tiny spaces and space extensions, living in micro-societies, innovative lifestyles, us¬ing resources and improving the quality of life, and integrating technical systems and human interfaces.


Could you share your current projects/initiative?

Beginning of 2020, a new book on Space Habitability will be published by Springer. Human factors and habitability are important topics for working and living spaces. For space exploration, they are vital for mission success. Human factors and certain habitability issues have been integrated into the design process of manned spacecraft, however, there is a crucial need to move from mere survivability to factors that support thriving. ‘Habitability’ and human factors will become even more important determinants for the design of future long-term and commercial spacecraft as larger and more diverse groups occupy off-earth habitats. The ‘risk of an incompatible vehicle or habitat design’ has been identified by NASA as recognized key risk to human health and performance in space (NASA [Risk] 2013, p. 3). The book will provide an overview of the historic advancements of manned space craft, as well as highlighting various current and future concepts of ‘habitability’ and their translation into design. The main goal of this book is to promote a dialogue between the diverse concepts of ‘Habitability’ and their single dimensions. Selected dimensions will be discussed from various professional backgrounds and possible applications will be illustrated and discussed.




Explore the books published with Springer

© SpringerArchitecture for Astronauts 

This book presents the research results at the interface between people, Space and objects in an extra-terrestrial environment. 

Stay updated |  Architecture for Astronauts

© SpringerSpace Architecture Education for Engineers and Architects

The book provides detailed information on work and design processes for architects and engineers in space technology. 

Stay updated |   Space Architecture Education for Engineers and Architects

Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger 

Sandra Häuplik-Meusburger is a practicing architect with space-craft Architektur and expert in habitability design solutions for extreme environments, and teaches and researches at the Vienna University of Technology, Institute for Architecture and Design. She has published several scientific papers and worked on aerospace design and research projects, as PI, collaborator, manager and initiator. Sandra’s research expertise is Habitability Design in Extreme Environments. She uses cross-program comparison and analysis of inhabited isolated, confined and extreme environments (ICEs) on Earth and Space from a human perspective as a basis for the systematic assessment of existing and future living and working environments in space. Her work incorporates several data collection methods including personal interviews with astronauts, polar researchers and simulation members. She was principal investigator of the ‘HI-SEAS Habitability Study’ during the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog Simulation Mission. Sandra is a newly elected corresponding member of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

Follow the author |   spacecraftarchitektur



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