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Jorge Mañes Rubio’s Moon Temple seen from the front. All images courtesy the artist

Astronauts, Artists, and Architects Designed a Temple on the Moon

Dyllan Furness

Why Jorge Mañes Rubio, artist-in-residence at the European Space Agency, thinks lunar living could heal mankind.

Jorge Mañes Rubio’s Moon Temple seen from the front. All images courtesy the artist

The history of exploration might be tarnished by aggressive colonization, expansion, and exploitation, but thanks to the Outer Space Treaty, which forbids territorial claims to celestial bodies, the Moon doesn't fall under any nation's occupation. In the eyes of Jorge Mañes Rubio, artist-in-residence at the European Space Agency (ESA), the Moon is a blank slate, and it's this neutrality that inspired Rubio's Peak of Eternal Light, a conceptual project to 3D print a lunar temple.

"I started looking at the Moon as a universal symbol that can bring mankind together," he tells Creators. "This, to me, is a powerful idea—there are no boundaries or nations on the Moon. I see it as a carte blanche for doing a better job." Inspired by science, utopian architecture, and Mayan archeology, Rubio's Moon temple is a 165' dome at the edge of a colossal crater, with a communal forum and a telescope at its core. His goal is to lay the foundation for the spiritual side of a society in outer space, free from religion and borders.

From the inside of the temple at the Moon's south pole, the Earth can be seen upside-down. All digital visualizations are a collaboration with DITISHOE, a spatial design studio in the Netherlands.

At the same time, although the Moon may not fall under any nation's occupation, it isn't protected from acts like mining. "Colonization has always been driven by natural resources, and right now lots of companies are eyeing resources in space on asteroids, meteorites, the Moon, or Mars," Rubio says. "People have many different ideas about what's important out there in space. I think it's important to look at it in a sustainable, respectful, and even spiritual way."

For Rubio, the Moon is a metaphorical blank slate—an off-white canvas on which mankind can paint a new portrait of itself. But sweeping temperature extremes and ultraviolet radiation from unfiltered sunlight bleach all artifacts left on the lunar surface, including all six of the American flags planted by Apollo astronauts. The artist finds this fact fitting.

To establish a sense of cosmic spirituality, Rubio turned to Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Mayans with their deep cultural connection to the cosmos, as demonstrated by the observatory at Chichen Itza. To design the temple, he adopted ideas from visionary French architect Étienne-Louis Boullée, whose buildings were often too big to build on Earth.

"I realized all these crazy utopian structures that were too big for Earth could stand on the Moon," Rubio says, referencing lunar gravity. "What's utopian on Earth could one day be possible on the Moon. That could be true both for architecture and for all aspects of culture too."

The Moon Temple's centerpiece is a liquid mirror telescope for unparalleled star-gazing.

Though the Moon Temple is, first and foremost, an art piece, Rubio would love to see it built someday. While designing it, he met with ESA scientists to make sure it was consistent with the realities of space travel and lunar physics. For one thing, it's expensive to carry cargo into space, so agencies prioritize "in-situ resource utilization," a principle that advocates using found materials. To that end, the Moon Temple wouldn't be made of metals brought from Earth but would be 3D printed from lunar soil. The liquid mirror telescope at its center uses unique properties found in space to make a virtually perfect telescope.

For the construction site, Rubio chose Shackleton, a 13-mile wide, 2.6-mile deep impact crater on the Moon's south pole. Though its peaks bask in near-perpetual sunlight, the crater's core is one of the darkest, coldest places in our solar system, where water would likely be found as ice. For the first lunar resident, access to water will be a must. For now, though, building a temple in outer space is a Moonshot—an interplanetary thought experiment pondering how far humanity must travel to establish a utopian society, free from national boundaries and ideological differences.

Shackleton is a massive impact crater, 13 miles wide and 2.6 miles deep.

The Sun seen over the top of the Moon Temple.

The Moon Temple's telescope was inspired by the observatory at Chichen Itza.

Inside the crater is one of the darkest and coldest places in our solar system.

The Shackleton crater.

Jorge Mañes Rubio and DITISHOE plan to release a free virtual reality tour of Peak of Eternal Light in the coming months. To learn more about the artist click here.

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