LUNA Analogue Facility

The Moon on Earth – a lunar surface simulation facility in Cologne

Humankind is returning to the Moon. This time, Europe will be involved in the crewed Artemis programme and play a prominent role. It is not only the service module of the Orion capsule that is being built in Germany. The German Space Operations Center in Oberpfaffenhofen is also preparing to operate the European control centre for the Lunar Gateway, from where the landing missions will be controlled. LUNA will be another important European-German contribution. This unique facility, which will be inaugurated in Cologne in September 2024, is a collaborative project between ESA and DLR and is funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The exhibits represent the two major areas of application of LUNA. On the one hand, astronauts will be able to train for a wide range of activities on the lunar surface in the facility. On the other hand, the facility will also be available for all kinds of robotic experiments, validations and tests. The most striking element of LUNA will be its 700 square metre area, covered by a simulant that resembles the lunar surface’s dusty regolith.

A solar simulator will provide realistic lighting conditions in the pitch-black room. In the Deep Floor Area, the regolith will be three metres deep, so that craters or underground structures can be simulated, and seismic measurements carried out. A ramp will allow slope simulations. Astronauts will be able to move across the ‘lunar surface’ in a spacesuit, with a gravity offloading system simulating the reduced gravity conditions on the Moon. Virtual reality is intended to further increase the degree of realism – a separate digital studio is planned for this purpose. External areas will include a habitat, a sintering process facility and EDEN LUNA – a greenhouse that has already been used in Antarctica as EDEN ISS.

All these areas will be integrated into the data network that also connects the German Space Operations Center, the European Astronaut Centre and the International Space Station ISS.


German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Space Operations and Astronaut Training