Soviet Lunar Base Project Zvezda

One of the most ambitious Soviet projects was the lunar base, developed by the Special Construction Bureau “Spezmash” headed by V. Barmin. Lunar settlements were conceived by the spacecraft designer Sergey Korolev back in 1962, when cultivating the Moon seemed a matter of a near future. In the official documents, the base was known as the “Long-Term Lunar Base Zvezda”, which means “star”. The engineers working on the project called it Barmingrad (Barmin-city), after the name of the project lead.

It was expected that the first modules of Zvezda will be shipped to the Moon in early 1970s. In 1971, the design process was completed. However, in 1972 the project was wound down, after the USSR declined to partake on the “lunar race” with the US.

What could Zvezda have looked like, should it be indeed realized in the 1970s? The project included four stages:

  • Flights of automatic probes around the Moon, to choose the optimal location for the base.
  • Detailed exploration of the pre-selected areas by a team of 4 astronauts, equipped with the “lunar train”. The lunar was to be comprised by three modules, lead by a lunar rover. The three modules were: a living one, a nuclear power plant, and a drilling machine, collecting the samples of lunar ground for analysis.
  • Building a temporary lunar base. After accomplishing of this phase, a detailed exploration of other parts of the Moon with the lunar train would become possible.
  • Delivery of the building blocks and development of the long-term lunar base. Nine modules were planned for shipment to the Moon, using a heavy carrier rockets. Each module, a 8,6 x 3,3 meters large tube, would weigh more than 8 tons and designated for a special task: the command post, labs, a storage room, a workshop, aid station, a gym, kitchen, and living blocks. The base was supposed to host up to 12 astronauts. Also a nuclear power plant had to be shipped to the Moon.

A prototype living module was actually built in 1967. It was used for experiments with long-term stay in a closed space, held in the Moscow Institute for Medical and Biologic Problems.

The following is a series of illustrations depicting the Zvezda settlement, by Victor Filippsky: Source: 1


Left: General view of the settlement.

Middle: V. Barmin's moon rover pulling a train of Moon exploration units. The housing unit, the laboratory unit, the drilling rig and the nuclear power unit would allow to carry out detailed months-long investigations of the Moon hundreds of miles away from the base station.

Right: The regolith cover. Assembled station is covered with the lunar soil to protect it against the aggressive environment.

When assembled, the nine modules of the lunar station had to be strewn with lunar soil. This would provide the thermal insulation, as well as additional protection from micro-meteorites. After such covering, Zvezda would be melt into the lunar landscape. 

The lunar train was a very heart of the project. A heavy rover and a mobile power plant would allow to undertake months-long excursions to distant areas on the Moon surface. The cars of this train should have been covered by a multi-level coat, protecting them from the meteorites and from the radiation alike.

The living module of the base featured a non-conventional design. Built as a hexahedral tube, it saved space by combining several sets of equipment, becoming available as the tube turned around its longtitudinal axis (see the treadmills and the table in the pictures below).

The realization of the project required massive loads to be transported to the moon. This would only become possible with a heavy lift rocket. This role was destined to the rocket N1 (left picture). Already at that stage, it became clear that the project was just too ahead of its time: The N1 project was terminated due to massive technical challenges and lack of funding to overcome them. 

Further lunar settlement projects have been devised later on, but none has been actually implemented so far. However, as the officials in the Russian Space Agency "Roscosmos" claim 4, continuation of the project is a matter of funding. The future will show, if any of Barmin's ideas will actually come to life, should a manned lunar settlement ever be implemented.




  4. A video by Roscosmos