The living quarters of the Gateway station will be so small that astronauts won't be able to stand upright.

The Gateway station will be built by NASA and its international partners in the next few years. The space lab will be one sixth of the size of the International Space Station and will feature two habitation modules that will force crew members to all but forgo personal space.

René Waclavicek, a space architect and design researcher at Austria-based LIQUIFER Space Systems, said at the Czech Space Week that the International Habitation module will have about 8 square meters of usable space. It would be a room 2 by 2 by 2 meters. You are trapped there. There are other rooms, but they are not big and there are not many of them.

The next-generation lunar Gateway space station is being built.

The International Habitation module, or I-Hab, is one of Gateway's two habitable elements, and was designed by Waclavicek.

The architects had to compromise on practical demands when working on the design, according to Waclavicek. Due to the impossibility of launching massive components to the moon, larger modules had to be abandoned.

Waclavicek said that the first phase started with a cylinder similar to what they know from the International Space Station. It is about 15 feet in diameter and 20 feet long. Due to mass restrictions, we had to downsize it to 3 m. We had an interior cross section of only 1.2 m by 1.2 m. If you want to stretch out, you have to turn 90 degrees, because most of the internal volume is consumed by machinery.

The International Space Station, which is 7.2 feet wide and 2.2 m high, offers a luxurious experience compared to Gateway, which is only 3.5 feet wide and 1.2 m high.

The I-Hab is a cylinder with a hatch on each end and two hatches at the sides. You have to interrupt whatever you are doing in order to let the other person pass by you.

A visualization of the crew segment of the lunar Gateway station.

The crew quarters of the NASA-led lunar Gateway station will be so small that astronauts will not be able to stand upright. (Image credit: ESA/NASA/ATG Medialab)

Private space was protected by closing doors for each crew member of the i-Hab. Staying aboard the Gateway will be challenging for a number of reasons. Most of the module will be occupied by noisy and vibrating life-support technology, which will grate on the nerves of most mortals.

Waclavicek said that you are in a machine room. The life-support systems make noise, they have a lot of fans, and you don't have a lot of private space where you can tame the noise.

The architects explored ways to ease the pressure on the crew and make the experience of staying aboard the Gateway more enjoyable, but they kept hitting technical limits, including those of launch vehicles.

People always ask where the window is. Waclavicek made a statement. The window is the place where astronauts spend the most time. There are technical issues with it. The continuity of the structure is disrupted by the fact that the moon is a thousand times farther away than the International Space Station. A window is the first thing to be canceled.

There will be smaller windows on the Gateway which will be built in Europe.

I-Hab's journey to the moon isn't expected before the year 2027. The Critical Design Review, an important milestone before hardware manufacturing can commence, is currently being worked on by the team.

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