How to: mind the moon
A perverted material library by Lev Bratishenko, Francelle Cane, Anastasia Kubrak, Jane Mah Hutton, Marija Marić, Amelyn Ng, Bethany Rigby, and Fred Scharmen
Space mining, the extraction of resources in outer space, is a project tending to become a reality. In search of rare minerals, metals, and other valuable materials, the wild imaginaries of extraction-driven growth have literally transcended the boundaries of Earth. This displacement of resource exploitation from the exhausted Earth to its ‘invisible’ hinterland—the Moon and other celestial bodies—calls for an urgent debate on the impact this shift will have on our understanding of land, resources, and commons.
How to: mind the moon offers another way of reading five lunar materials: regolith, lunar dust, solar wind, seconal sodium, and aluminium. A perversion of the format of a material sample and datasheet—technical documents commonly used in material science to describe chemical and mechanical properties of materials—the workshop outlines another kind of material library, that which goes beyond the perceived scientific neutrality of materials. Instead, it frames the political, social, environmental, and cultural conditions of materials, both as a physical matter and a form of fiction.
Title: Prospective Rest
Logged by: Anatasia Kubrak
Seconal, Sleeping pill, “Red devil”.
Secobarbital sodium. C12H18N2NaO3. Sedative-hypnotic
(a heavy one).
Regularly taken by astronauts during the Apollo missions.
In the 70s, we simply took “reds” to relax; today, it is used only for euthanasia.
Not easily found anywhere,
except the Moon.
“Repair with rest.
Anxieties vanish, new strengths are gained.
Alert awakening and refreshed vigor follow the restful sleep.”
To perform during critical mission phases. Optimize your performance to extend geological exploration. Focus. Days in the Lunar Module are dreadfully long.
Sleep without feeling drowsy the morning after.
Feeling drowsy the morning after.
Abnormal thoughts and behaviour
Demonstrated. Medical substances including lithium, sodium, iron, magnesium are present in the Moon’s crust. Through effective exploitation of lunar resources, mental and geological recovery will be achieved.
To the neoliberalisation of the geological body and geologist’s mind; to abnormal thoughts and behavior (more research is needed.)
May be habit forming.
Material Sample Specifications:
Seconal Sodium Pulvules Box, 1920s
Apollo 17 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Recordings, 1972
The crew of Apollo 17 took Seconal repeatedly during the mission. It was the first mission to place a geologist on the moon, and is considered the most productive with the “largest sample return”.
Here’s what they left behind.
Apollo 17 Technical Air-to-Ground Voice Recordings, 1972
File name: Rabbit on the Mooncake
Logged by: Jane Mah Hutton
Regolith, from Greek rhēgos “blanket” + lith “rock”
SiO2, CaO, Al2O3, FeO, MgO (see Similarity to cementitious construction materials, Earth)
Unconsolidated, heterogeneous rock material blanketing the Moon’s surface; size primarily < 1 cm but varies from dust (see Lunar dust) to cobbles to large boulders; depth varies from a few meters (mares or seas) to tens of meters (highland regions).
Rabbit, toad, human on the Moon. From Earth, lunar “seas” appear dark and mountains appear light. Shapes seen include:
1. a rabbit, companion to the Moon Goddess, preparing an elixir of life or mooncakes;
2. a virtuous rabbit memorialized on the Moon by the ruler of heaven;
3. a toad who leaped to the Moon to escape a wolf;
4. a woodcutter carrying sticks, banished to the Moon for working on the Sabbath;
5. a person who wears the crater Tycho as a shining jewel necklace, or
6. whose eyes are the Seas of Serenity and Rain.
Bombardment. Large and small meteoroids and miniscule particles (see Solar wind) continuously impact, pulverize, melt, weld, and churn (or “garden”) the regolith, completely turning over the surface in 80,000 years.
Seeking solid ground. All plans for lunar colonization and mining bank on regolith as the material basis for construction (roads, landforms, buildings) (see Moon village); regolith is the primary resource of In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) and stabilization approaches include:
1. spray urethane resins on excavated slopes, landing fields and to make roads;
2. compress regolith into bricks with polyol and isocyanate;
3. melt regolith into cast basalt, mold into structural slabs;
4. cold press blocks without additives;
5. produce concretes and other composites for 3-D printing.
Hazards: human, waste disposal, transformation of lunar surface.
Moonwatchers take watch. What shapes will lunar colonization draw on the surface of the Moon? Amateur astronomers photograph and monitor changes from Earth. Space archaeologist Alice Gorman suggests that this surveillance may be the best way to see and resist the lunar mining industry. Like political messages baked into or stamped onto mooncakes (see Mooncake uprising), the moon speaks for itself.
Everyone wants a slice. But mooncake is too sweet to eat alone, so savor it with others.
Material Sample Specifications:
Rabbit on the Mooncake salt dough, polymer clay, paint
File Name: Unsettling the Ground
Logged by: Amelyn Ng
Lunar Dust (see Regolith)
Al2O3: Oxygen is the new oil.
Lunar dust may contain up to 45 percent oxygen, so much that the Moon has been redefined as a “gas station” for fuelling future space travel. For information on notable past experiments, please refer to the history of fossil capital on Earth and its resulting climate catastrophe.
Entire lunar surface
Abrasive, clingy, polluting, hazardous, hostile, a nuisance. Scientifically considered a liability and an asset,1 lunar dust is typically visualized through scanning electron microscopy images. But this material has also appeared:
In film. Scientists are conducting media studies of dust.
Frame-by-frame analyses of the Apollo 16 lunar rover footage reveal unearthly dust cloud trajectories under zero-atmosphere, low-gravity conditions.2 Here, dust is a visual “fact”: proof to any skeptics that the 1972 Moon mission was, indeed, real.
As footprints. Nation states debate the geopolitics of preserving lunar landing sites for perpetuity.3 From footprints to rover tracks and crash-landings, dust logs surface activity for many “firsts” in the pioneer narrative. The move to preserve the (predominantly American) dust-prints of history is a euphemism for territorial claim.
Dust is more than a medium for surface inscription; disturbed dirt is a border-making agent, recording the marks of territorial tussle and land-grab in the name of historic preservation.
Heritage for whom?4
Lunar dust as other: dust is unfamiliar and unpredictable. Its presence was so overwhelming that an Apollo Dust Brush was developed. Upon return to earth, machines and bodies are cleaned with attention to where “contact” was made with “foreign” material. Dust was to be kept outside, at bay, at all costs.5
Earthly dust as other: back on Earth, there are fears of airborne terrestrial dust contaminating lunar samples. Laboratory buildings are, in turn, designed with requirements for extreme hygiene.6 Here, human bodies must be sealed in protective gear (like astronauts). Dust is a pristine, exoticized other to be protected. This preoccupation with contamination rehearses a colonial “pollution and purity” narrative, branding the other as foreigner / stranger / native / immigrant to be contained or eliminated.7
Like burnt gunpowder. For astronauts — who often double as active-duty military personnel — the closest comparison that could be made was the scent of a smoking weapon. Gunpowder represents a militarised olfactory reading of the moon as “mission,” underscoring a violence latent in the narrative of conquest and capture.
A significant occupational hazard, with common names like astronaut’s hay fever (short exposure) and astronaut’s lung (long exposure). Microfine dust particles are highly abrasive and toxic. When inhaled, it irritates and remains permanently lodged in the respiratory tract. Apollo 12 astronauts described themselves as “bituminous coal miners” and their lunar module as “a neat, orderly coal mine.”8 As dust settles in lung tissue, the astronaut’s body figures that of the miner, following the “slow violence” that poisoned industrial workers along race and class lines over the last century.9
It literally cannot be brushed off. Lunar dust is highly resistant to space exploration. The sharp grain structure of dust has allowed it to eat through suits and boots, to cut through the seals of sample containers, to clog cameras, to obscure helmet visors, to add friction to lunar vehicles, and to shorten the lifespan of surface equipment. Despite constant cleaning, it refuses to be contained. The spanner in the works of extraterrestrial extraction may be found in dust itself.
With solar geoengineering and space fuel on the horizon, how might we partner with dust, protest with dust, and counter an acceleration toward colonialist technofutures on- and off-earth?
Material Sample Specifications:
Lawrence Taylor et al, “The Lunar Dust Problem: From Liability to Asset,” American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, white paper, December 21, 2012. ↩
Hsiang-Wen Hsu and Mihály Horány, “Tracking Lunar Dust - Analysis of Apollo Footage,” American Journal of Physics 80:5, May 2012. ↩
“Should Neil Armstrong’s Bootprints be on the Moon Forever?,” New York Times July 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes. com/2019/07/11/science/moon-apollo-11- archaeology- preservation.html. ↩
“Dirt is what gives relief to the mark drawn on the dusty ground with a stick to say, inside/outside, included/excluded.” Hélène Frichot: Dirty Theory – Troubling Architecture (Spurbuchverlag, 2019), 11. ↩
In the “zero-carbon” Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, Gökçe Günel identifies an essential worker she calls the “man with a brush” — “a worker dedicated to gently wiping away dust and mud from the solar panels” outside the city confines. Dust stands in for immigrant laborers, who are essential yet systematically excluded from sight, rights, and citizenship. Gökçe Günel, Spaceship in the Desert: Energy, Climate Change, and Urban Design in Abu Dhabi (Duke University Press, 2019), 59-60. ↩
Grant H. Heiken, David T. Vaniman, Bevan M. French, eds., Lunar Sourcebook: A user’s guide to the moon (Cambridge University Press, 1991), 24. ↩
Interview with Debora Battaglia, in William Lempert, “Outer Space Trilogy 2: Moon Dust and Cosmo/politics,” AnthroPod, Fieldsights, podcast, February 14, 2017. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/outer-space-trilogy-2-moon-dust-and-cosmo-politics ↩
“Return to Orbit,” transcript by Eric M Jones, Apollo 12 Lunar Surface Journal, last revised March 20, 2015.
Rob Nixon, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press, 2013). ↩
Clara Davis, Conductive Gelatin bioplastic Ge04, recipe, File Materiom, CC BY- SA 4.0, https://materiom.org/recipe/208.
Title: Elemental Solar Wind
Logged by: Bethany Rigby
Solar Wind / Stellar Wind / Lunar Weather
of charged particles consisting
of electrons, protons + alpha articles.
The Sun’s Atmosphere Blowing through Space
The Sun’s surface burns at 6000 degrees °F but its atmosphere – the corona – is a thousand times hotter; so hot that gravity cannot hold onto it, and particles are ejected at over one million mph. This flow of particles is Solar Wind. On contact with the lunar surface solar charged particles bury into regolith, becoming stored inside the rock. Solar Wind is not present on Earth due to the protective magnetosphere, making the Moon our nearest source.
Solar Wind makes the Moon an archive by inscribing a record of the past galactic environment into lunar soils and this record can be read through thermal processing of lunar regolith at 700 degrees °C (see Regolith). From Earth, solar wind is invisible to the naked human eye with the exception of Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis.
Solar Wind delivers resources to the Moon
Being made up of gases such as
solar wind is the producer of many elements found at the lunar surface. Processing of solar-wind gases from the regolith can provide life-sustaining consumables (H2, O2, H20,C02 NOx). Quantities of Helium-3 in the upper metre of lunar regolith (thanks to solar wind implantation over billions of years) are sufficient to supply the needs of the Earth for hundreds of years as a nuclear energy source.1
Without the solar wind, the Moon would be less useful.
Solar Storms on the Sun’s surface and Sun “burps” (coronal mass ejections) throw billions of tons of matter into space at once. These storms wipe out communication and navigation systems, triggering blackouts, disrupting abiotic ecologies and ceasing moon-village operations (see Villagers).
Alongside this, solar radiation without protection is extremely damaging to biological life forms.
Solar wind is Lunar Weather
A Solar Wind Forecast is broadcast to lunar inhabitants as an early warning for solar storms or increased wind activity. (See solar forecast) Much remains unknown about the complexities of solar wind, further monitoring is needed for more accurate forecasting.
Solar Wind Composition Experiment The Solar Wind Composition experiment (SWC, used since 1969) enables astronauts to examine solar wind by analysing charged particles collected on a silver foil flag installed on the lunar surface. Geopolitical frictions around territorial claims on the Moon designate that new equipment can no longer aesthetically resemble a flag.2 Therefore, post-Apollonian lunar missions use a Solar Wind Sock- a neutral object more ubiquitous amongst lunar runway and landing pad infrastructures.3
Material Sample Specifications:
Belongings of a Lunar Weather Forecaster Solar Wind Sock for measuring solar wind. A redesign of the Apollo-era Solar Wind Composition Experiment.
Solar Wind Forecast is broadcast to lunar inhabitants detailing next 24hrs of solar activity. The Solar Wind Forecast lends its style from the UK shipping forecast. Collection of Lunar Sunlight Prints produced and developed with lunar sunlight by the weatherman whilst stationed on the Moon. They depict the solar wind sock, instruction guides, and moonscapes.
Solar Wind Forecast: The Moon
Summary at 0600 for next 24hrs
Mare Tranquillitatis: North veering north westerly, 3 or 4, rough, good occasionally moderate.
Mare Crisium: North, 5 moving to 4 later, smooth, good.
Oceanus Procellarum: South variable, 3 or 4 later, smooth, good occasionally poor.
Fra Mauro: South backing south westerly, 5, very rough, moderate perhaps becoming poor.
Hadley-Apennines: Southwesterly, 5 or 6 occasionally 7, smooth, poor.
Descartes Highlands: Westerly 5 veering south westerly 4 for a time later, occasionally 4 later, slight, good.
Taurus-Littrow: North westerly, 5 increasing 6 at times, very rough, poor becoming moderate later.
LeMonnier Crater: North, 5, rough and smooth at times, moderate to good.
Mare Imbrium: Westerly veering north, 3, smooth with slight at times, good.
Sinus Medii: West variable, 4 becoming 5, good at times rough, moderate at times poor.
Tycho Crater: West backing south westerly, 6 until 7 later, good occasionally poor.
Location: Solar wind direction, radiation level, particle state, visibility
The Lunar Sourcebook. 1991. Section 8.8.4. ↩
Flag planting is considered a political act ↩
IYKYK: The Solar Wind Sock design is a satirical “easter egg” that nods to a prevalent conspiracy theory around early moon landings, where photos of a wind-rippled flag sparked rumours the landings were faked. (further information: see appendix 4.b: The Aldrin Flag Conspiracy) Apollo Era SWC Experiment ↩
File Name: Villagers
Logged by: Fred Scharmen
Components/ Chemical Formula:
You are an element. You contain 13 protons and 14 neutrons Chemical formula in your nucleus, which is surrounded by 13 electrons. Often, 3 of your outermost electrons are available to share with, and react to, others.
Once thought rare and precious, you are now known to be common. Made inside stars and dispersed by supernovas, you are present throughout the solar system. Everywhere you are bound up with others, and it takes a lot of energy to give you your own identity.
You can become almost anything. Once refined, you can be reshaped almost infinitely, or so the story goes. It is hard for you to become yourself, and easy for you to be anything else.
You are perceived as useful. When people think of you, we immediately start to imagine all of the things you might be able to do for us. You can give us structure. You can protect us from the dangerous things outside. You can store our food. You can become the vessels that take us elsewhere. And while you are here, you can help us obtain more of yourself. But that doesn’t totally capture everything that is important about you.
You are part of a community. You are many things, and all of those things work together. You are important to others, because you are different from them. You are yourself, and interacting with those who are not like you is rewarding. You form part of a system, like a village.
You will last a long time. You are not very susceptible to corrosion and decay, and can be renewed and reformed. Change helps make a longer life, along with play and community.
Your work isn’t everything. You are conductive and malleable, you get along well. Remember to resist, too. Don’t just accept things as they are and pass them on without thinking. Your role and activities may give you your identity, but this need not be a permanent state.
Material Sample Specifications:
This project would have been impossible without conversations with Abigail Calzada Diaz, Ian Crawford, Alice Gorman, and Rory Rowan. We thank them for generously sharing their time and ideas with us.
How to: mind the moon was developed in collaboration with the Luxembourg Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. The outcome of the workshop, a material library, is produced and exhibited as part of the exhibition Down to Earth of the 2023 Luxembourg Pavilion in Sale d’Armi, Arsenale di Venezia, curated by Francelle Cane and Marija Marić.
Since 2018, the CCA’s annual “How to” residency has produced interventions in para-architectural activities like publishing (How to: not make an architecture magazine), curation (How to: disturb the public), and awards (How to: reward and punish). The residency was conceived as a platform for rapid tool-making in response to specific opportunities and needs, and in 2022 it began a three-year cycle focused on accelerating changes in architecture practice, beginning with architect hybrids (How to: not become a developer) and followed by (How to: to do no harm).
Notes (Unsettling the Ground and Elemental Solar Wind)