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Multi-functionality in space

Using cardboard and other repurposed materials, design and build a multi-function habitat in space capable of housing two astronauts.

Grade level

3 to 5

Text version of infographic entitled "The engineering design process"

The engineering design process

  • Problem or challenge
    • Define the problem
    • Identify the constraints on your solution (e.g. time, money, materials) and criteria for success
    • Brainstorm multiple solutions for the problem
    • Select the most promising solution
    • Prototype your solution
    • Test and evaluate your prototype
    • Iterate to improve your prototype
    • Communicate your solution

Infographic entitled "The engineering design process". (Credit: Canadian Space Agency [CSA])


Astronauts will have limited space while stationed at the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO). They will need to perform experiments, command the Gateway, eat, rest, exercise, etc. while in an area no larger than one small school bus. The entire Lunar Gateway will only be about the size of two small school buses, which is quite small compared to the International Space Station (ISS) that is about the size of a football field. The HALO module needs to be designed to be multipurpose and accommodate the astronauts and their work.

Your challenge is to design and build your own miniature and multi-function HALO that has room for six essential compartments for different tasks, while maintaining a positive work/life balance for the two onboard astronauts. However, you must be sure to include the following compartments in your design: food storage, a robotics control station, and a small research laboratory. You will also need to find a place on the outside of the HALO module for a solar panel to help power the HALO.

Learn about Canada's role in the Lunar Gateway!


Where do astronauts sleep, eat and work when they are onboard the Lunar Gateway? As you build your very own HALO, what will you need to include in its design in order to survive in outer space and do the work of an astronaut? Which of your choices are more important and are "Needs"? Which choices are maybe a bit less important and are "Wants"? How will you make your final decision about what to include?

Suggested materials

Text version of infographic showing a few cardboard cutting and folding techniques

A few cardboard cutting and folding techniques

  • Flange
  • L-brace
  • Tabs
  • Slot + cut
  • Slot + tab
  • String

A few cardboard cutting and folding techniques. (Credit: CSA)


What is different between living on Earth and living in space? Think about your everyday life. How would it change onboard the HALO? How will the lack of gravity in outer space have an effect on your daily tasks or how you set up the HALO?

Use this table to record your ideas and separate them into your needs and wants.

Table example of needs and wants
Number Needs Wants
1 - -
2 - -
3 - -
4 - -
5 - -
6 - -


What are the best ideas from your list that you can combine to create the most promising design? Can you add three compartments to the final list, which also includes food storage, a robotics control station, and a small research laboratory? Try thinking about what the astronauts need to survive and the space experiments they need to get done! Remember, you can combine more than one idea.

Table example of compartments and purposes
Number Compartment Purposes
1 Food Storage A place to store food so astronauts can eat and stay healthy
2 Robotics Control Station Control Canadarm3 and other robotic systems
3 Small Research Laboratory A place where astronauts can conduct their science experiments
4 - -
5 - -
6 - -
Model with solar panels, HALO, Canadarm3, power and propulsion element and sleep area

Example of a HALO design with its sleep area. (Credit: CSA)

Model with sleep area next to robotics control station, research lab and food storage

Example of a living area of the HALO. (Credit: CSA)


  1. Create some sketches of potential HALO designs on paper using your final list of compartments and be sure to add labels to help identify the different compartments. Don't forget to include the solar panel on the exterior of the HALO to help power it!
  2. Gather a variety of recyclables and available materials to build your miniature HALO. Please take a look at the suggested cardboard connections to help bring your ideas to life and learn some new cardboard prototyping skills.
  3. What shape will your module be? The real HALO module will be a cylinder, a tube. Why are certain shapes better than others?
  4. Identify sections for your compartments/areas of your design to house your identified purposes.
  5. Be creative and add details to each compartment to make it unique and match your sketched design.
  6. Add labels to your constructed HALO that helps identify each compartment.
  7. Measure and record the length, width, and height of your HALO model, in centimetres (cm) and each of its compartments.
    1. Height (cm):
    2. Length (cm):
    3. Width (cm):


How does your model meet the needs of living in outer space? What can you do to ensure that two astronauts can move around the HALO safely? How will you ensure there are areas for expansion?



Taking it further

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