Posts tagged with "Mars":

Placeholder Alt Text

A Hawaii-based Mars simulation poses tough design challenges

Since the beginning of civilization, architects have kept themselves primarily preoccupied with the buildings and structures here on planet earth. But with Elon Musk predicting that humans will reach Mars in 2025, perhaps it is time to consider architecture abroad—far, far abroad. What zoning requirements will exist on the Red Planet? What materials are there? What tools are needed? In short—what should we consider when planning for Martian architecture?

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) program is attempting to answer these questions. In August 2016, HI-SEAS concluded the 12-month Mission IV, NASA’s longest Earth-based Mars simulation. Funded by NASA and carried out by the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus, the program’s main focus is on behavioral research, particularly the psychological and psychosocial changes that would occur in the crew during these grueling, isolating missions. But along with that research, HI-SEAS also offers opportunities to study extraterrestrial architectural possibilities and how design can impact the quality of life to, from, and on other planets.

The HI-SEAS habitat itself is a prefab geodesic dome by Pacific Domes International, an open concept design by Blue Planet Research. The structure has a habitable volume of approximately 13,000 cubic feet, which translates to approximately 1,800 square feet across the main floor, second floor loft, and a workshop in an adjacent 20-foot-long steel shipping container. The double-height main living area contains a kitchen, laboratory, bathroom, simulated airlock, storage unit, dining room, public area, and telemetry room. On the second floor are six bedrooms and a half-bath. A 10kW solar array on the building’s south side and back-up hydrogen fuel cell generator provide energy; a propane generator can be used in the event both systems are down. Water is stored in two 500-gallon potable water tanks (refilled once a month or so), and waste water is stored in two 250-gallon gray water tanks.

Superficially, this setup meets all basic requirements for the crew to survive and conduct research, but as Mission IV architect Tristan Bassingthwaighte discovered during his year-long tenure there, it does little to address the entire scope of human needs. “While it is nice and spacious and open, the actual programming of the habitat and the amenities inside are far from ideal in keeping a crew happy and productive,” he said.

According to Bassingthwaighte, one major issue was the lack of soundproofing and privacy. To be low-impact and semiportable (important factors when building an initial base on another planet), the habitat was constructed from lightweight materials such as canvas and plywood, which do little in terms of acoustic mitigation. In their efforts to find privacy, team members attempted to seek refuge in the airlock (the only semiprivate space), but other teammates were constantly walking through the space. So, in case spending a year with the same six people wasn’t enough of a challenge, they could also hear each other 24/7—a guaranteed method of irritating basically everyone.

With limited access to natural light, the LED lighting within the mostly white interior also began to grate on the crew. “It was more boring than anything,” Bassingthwaighte explained. “We had very fake looking colors and that plus the all-white interior was just so boring.”

Addressing these two concerns are fairly straightforward—Bassingthwaighte redesigned the interior layout to improve the sense of privacy, create additional semi-private areas, and include more flexible lighting options. This was done through minor program changes and introduction of soundproofing materials and more natural LEDs.

But to truly address “the sum of human needs within the space,” Bassingthwaighte and other previous crew architects had to get more creative than that. They concluded that a 3-D printer would be a crucial tool to help reduce the need for spare parts, solve unanticipated issues, and, ultimately, to allow newly settled Martians to build their homes and cities. During actual space flight, 3-D files can be made by designers on the ground and simply printed by the astronauts, who are otherwise occupied with the spaceship; but once crew members have reached their destination, anything can be printed as needed (provided there are a few space architects and designers on board to create the files).

Unsurprisingly, virtual and augmented reality are also important to help people transcend the physical limitations of the space and distract them from their immediate, isolating surroundings. “The major consideration of these designs is people and how to keep them happy,” Bassingthwaighte explained. “Regardless of the surrounding situation, if your living space is flexible with nice materials, nice lighting, and augmented reality to make the space seem larger and more dynamic, then the population is going to be happier.”

And, until we make it to Mars and start to build cities there, working with a different climate, topography, and gravitational force, human-centric design is our best bet for buildings on Earth, too. 

Placeholder Alt Text

BIG to design the world’s largest Mars simulator in the UAE

The world's largest space stimulation city is a BIG deal. On Tuesday, United Arab Emirates leaders unveiled designs for a 1.9-million-square-foot Mars simulator designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). When it opens, a team will live in a Mars-like environment under one of the development's domes, subjecting themselves to and conducting experiments on energy, food, and water self-sustenance. To support the research, the simulation will include agriculture testing facilities to study food security, as well as labs for food, water, and energy. The public will be able to visit a museum of "humanity’s greatest space achievements" complete with educational spaces for young aspiring astronauts. The museum's walls will be 3D-printed from desert sand. Emirates News Agency (WAM), the UAE's official news agency, first broke the news. The project will cost approximately $136 million (AED $500 million) to build. "The UAE seeks to establish international efforts to develop technologies that benefit humankind, and that establish the foundation of a better future for more generations to come," said Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, at the meeting. "We also want to consolidate the passion for leadership in science in the UAE, contributing to improving life on earth and to developing innovative solutions to many of our global challenges." The space city is part of the UAE's Mars 2117 Strategy, an initiative launched this February that aims to build the first human settlement on Mars within the next century.
Placeholder Alt Text

There’s water flowing on Mars, and one day NASA could build this ice-covered human dwelling on the Red Planet

With the recent discovery by NASA that water is flowing on Mars, the call for housing on on the red planet has never been more relevant. And right on time with the outpouring of interplanetary news, the "3D Printed Habitat Challenge for Mars" competition, sponsored by NASA and America Makes, has unveiled its winning designs. The competition attracted over 160 applicants including Foster + Partners and the European Space Agency. Triumphing above all was a joint submission by SEArch (Space Exploration Architecture) and Clouds AO (Clouds Architecture Office), an architecture and space research collective which was awarded $25,000 in the process. It's especially fitting since SEArch and Clouds AO's submission uses a "follow the water" approach to conceptualize, site, and construct the winning design. In the brief, participants were challenged with creating a livable space for a four-person crew utilizing materials available on the Martian planet with a 3D printing device. SEArch and Clouds AO said the so-called ICE HOUSE proposal seeks to capture light and bridge the connection with the harsh external landscape of Mars and human life. According to the judges, ICE HOUSE was notable for bucking the trend of creating an underground dwelling (a solution which the majority of applicants pursued). The proposal instead would make use of the anticipated abundance of surface ice, constructing a thin, yet sturdy 0.2 inch-wide ice shell structure, suitably protecting the four crew members. Such a feature would allow the inhabitants to gaze upon Mars' landscape in the safety of a dwelling while also saving energy by not using artificial lighting. Natural light is also expected to boost morale. During the research phase of the submission, the team of scientists, astrophysicists, geologists, structural and 3D printing engineers, and eight designers went through various testing procedures to ensure the durability and feasibility of the proposal. The extensive research they went to can be found on their website.
Placeholder Alt Text

NASA crowdsourcing proposals for a built environment on Mars: Shelter, food, water, and communications systems needed

NASA is on a mission to end our parasitic dependence on earthly resources with a planned hijack of Mars. Through the Journey to Mars challenge, NASA invites applicants to submit proposals for a built environment on the red planet that is conducive to long-term human habitation and sustenance. Proposals must describe one or more Mars surface systems or operations for a “technically achievable, economically sustainable” human living space. Priorities are the indispensables such as air, water, food and communication systems, calling for a brainwave that would enable scientists to circumvent climatic deterrents, including temperatures as unforgiving as minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, average temperature hovers around minus 80F. According to NASA, the proposed solutions must not depend on Earth for resources. Given a minimum interim of 500 days between each resupply opportunity and space as well as weight constraints on spacecraft, the only option left is to establish an in situ, self-replenishing food source. In the meantime, NASA has put out antennae in the form of spacecraft monitoring and rovers on the surface of Mars, while the International Space Station is investigating the health-related ramifications of long-term space travel. The brief requests only written submissions  diagrams and charts are immaterial at this stage of the game. NASA elaborates that submissions “may consist of proposed approaches, capabilities, systems or a set of integrated systems that enable or enhance a sustained human presence on Mars. Solutions should include the assumptions, analysis, and data that justify their value. Submissions should include a process to develop, test, implement, and operate the system or capability. Submissions will be judged on relevance, creativity, simplicity, resource efficiency, feasibility, comprehensiveness and scalability.” The deadline to apply is July 6, 2015. NASA is awarding a total of $15,000 to three finalists, whose proposals will be used in conjunction with NASA’s concurrent Solar Electric Propulsion project, namely the rocket that is expected to launch the system. The aeronautics administration is also tinkering with a Space Launch System and several existing robotic landers such as the Curiosity Rover. The goal is to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.
Placeholder Alt Text

Is that Musk in the Air? Electric Car, Space Guru Has Plans For Texas

Speaking of rumors, Texas Monthly spread the word that Silicon Valley billionaire visionary Elon Musk may be locating facilities for two of his future-looking companies in the Lone Star State. Musk’s SpaceX has been buying up land in Cameron County in South Texas with the implicit purpose of building a space facility on the site to launch an expedition to Mars. In more terrestrial affairs, the South Africa native is also considering building a battery factory in the state for his electric car company, Tesla Motors.