Posts tagged with "Space":

Placeholder Alt Text

Decoding the colonial history behind Blue Origin's space settlements

In May 2019, Jeff Bezos made his case for why and how humans will occupy space, in a presentation titled “Going to Space to Benefit Earth.” The original presentation was made to a relatively small audience but is also viewable on the website of Blue Origin, the Bezos-owned spaceflight and rocketry company. In little less than an hour, he made the argument that for humans to continue to evolve and improve their living standards, we will need access to more resources and environments than the earth has to offer us. As part of the presentation, Bezos described his vision for what the off-planet colonies will look like and the short-term goals required to make them a reality. While most of the emphasis was placed on those short-term goals, which are to colonize and extract resources from the moon, the more compelling section of the presentation focused his long term goal for off-planet environments. Using a series of illustrative animations, Bezos explained how humans could inhabit space using O’Neil cylinders. This is technology initially imagined in the 1970s by Princeton University physics professor Gerard O’Neil. There are plenty of other people, such as Fred Scharmen, who have already written about the history behind extraterrestrial colonies and their cultural impacts, so instead, I would like to focus on the even older representational techniques that influenced Blue Origin's vision of the future. Bezos used four images to illustrate and emphasize a set of important points that he makes to re-enforce his vision. The first of these points is that Blue Origin's space habitats would not be made up of larger versions of the international space stations but of manmade environments capable of supporting populations that are the equivalent of small to medium-sized cities. The second is that these orbital landscapes could vary in use (and simulated gravity through the adjustment of their rotational speeds), including recreational, farming, and technical purposes. The third is, that despite being removed from the surface of the Earth, the architecture could be made to be both visionary and familiar, allowing colonizers to maintain their cultural and spatial references while experimenting with novel landscapes. Despite being new natures, the landscapes and ecologies presented by Blue Origin were highly familiar places. This was an important part of the presentation because it allowed the audience to imagine themselves as potentially occupying these places. The representational devices used in the renderings are part of a long tradition of landscape painting: most notably, passive cues that make the occupation of unfamiliar landscapes imaginable and palatable. For comparison, Thomas Cole and other artists of the Hudson River School created paintings that normalized the 19th-century expansion into the Northeastern United States. They celebrated agriculture and other methods of organizing nature to the benefit of European colonizers, "taming" what they saw as a wild place. Nature has been historically used as an adversary to be conquered in the form of weather and difficult-to-traverse topography. An example of this can be seen in the painting View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow by Thomas Cole. The painting illustrates an artist on a hill facing storm clouds and farmland in the distance. The use of perspective and distance used in the Blu Origin images echo the rules used by Cole, with the only significant difference being the threat that the environment poses. One of the animations places a stag on a mountain in the center foreground of the rendering. In the background, there is an expanse of artificial wilderness with a city in the distance. To the right of the stag, an eagle or other large bird of prey flies effortlessly through the cylinder. Adjacent to the settlement in the image, the earth slowly rotates into view from behind the wilderness section. Instead of the thunder clouds seen in Cole's work, the sky has been replaced with the dark void beyond the structure's enclosure and stars, with the explicit understanding that this is an off-planet landscape surrounded by a vacuum. In another animation, a city is present in the background and passenger cars moved along a light rail. The presence of rain seen in Thomas Cole's painting has been replaced with a drone watering crops as it drifts over land designated for agricultural use. Weather in these spaceborne enclosures, specifically rain events, would be fabricated and controlled by necessity. However, using drones to create rain events also speaks towards a need to experience weather to simulate “nature” to the highest degree possible. The drones provide a service, but they also normalize an extremely artificial landscape. The final two animations illustrated two forms of off-world urbanism. In one of the images, the "city" was created by collaging together a series of important architectural constructions and streetscape seen across the world. From one vantage point, a resident would see a blend of Swiss, Italian, and Chinese architecture. Architecture would work as a comforting set of references for the residents, tying them back to the Earth-bound cultural environments perceived as being valuable. This vision was a more densely populated habitat of tall buildings, parks, and athletic fields. As is the case with the landscapes, the city animations sampled a narrow segment of the Earth, and were meant to attract interest from a narrow segment of people. The primary audience is the people that were present in the auditorium, sharing privileged worldviews and experiences, who would recognize the imagery being referenced. The animations shared by Blue Origin represent a complex set of ideas and allowances. They presented a chance to revisit the romantic mythologies that the adults in the audience saw in their college art history courses. At the same time, those renderings validate their commitment to a future where technology is the best means to advance humanity. Like the Cole painting, they justify the presence of people in space habitats through the use of positive pastoral imagery. This leads to what is arguably the real goal of the presentation—building enthusiasm for resource extraction on the moon. Jeff Bezos makes it clear that the moon would need to be mined for the resources that would make these space habitats economically viable. He also stated that space would provide a limitless amount of resources for expansion. This is an argument of expansion and capitalism, one that edges out conservation on Earth. There is an implicit assumption that increased exploration will make the materials cheaper. This is an argument that has been made many times before, including in 1492 when Columbus lobbied for the investments that would allow him to reach the Bahamas.
Placeholder Alt Text

Trevor Paglen’s orbital sculpture lost forever after government shutdown

After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year raised $76,000 for the launch of the Orbital Reflector “art satellite,” the installation has been lost in space. The project arose from a collaboration between American artist Trevor Paglen and the Nevada Museum of Art. Once the diamond-shaped balloon was fully deployed, it was supposed to circle the Earth for two months, reflecting sunlight back to the ground at night. Once the small “CubeSat” carrying the balloon reached space, it was to separate from the rocket, establish a unique orbit, and inflate the balloon using a compressed nitrogen cartridge. Orbital Reflector was supposed to have been the first piece of public art visible from space, with a truly global reach (edging out Pepsi’s attempts at low Earth orbit advertising). The 100-foot-long reflective polyethylene balloon was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket alongside 63 other satellites on December 3 of last year, but was unable to deploy as scheduled thanks to the ongoing government shutdown. Each satellite requires a unique ID number so that it can be tracked at ground level; unfortunately, the Combined Space Operations Center, a division of the Air Force that allocates those identifiers, was unable to perform this task during the government shutdown. The Nevada Museum of Art lost contact with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who had requested the team wait for their go-ahead before expanding the balloon, during that time as well. Now it seems that the team has thrown in the towel. According to a letter dated May 1 posted on the Orbital Reflector website, communication with the satellite has been lost. “Orbital Reflector successfully separated from the rocket,” reads the final update, “and was deployed within a cluster of similarly sized spacecraft. To avoid collision, Orbital Reflector was set to inflate once it drifted away from potential impacts, and after it had received final clearance and approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The satellite’s electronics and hardware were designed to function during this waiting period but were not hardened for long-term functionality in space. From the start, the satellite was designed to be as light and functional as possible to allow for eventual disintegration. “By the time the government was re-opened and the Air Force renewed its attempts to sort out the cloud of satellites, communications from spacecraft had gone silent. At this point, it became clear that tracking Orbital Reflector, either before or after its inflation in space, would no longer be a viable outcome.” With the satellite dead in the water, the project’s Kickstarter backers at least received the pins, patches, and postcards they had pledged for.
Placeholder Alt Text

Alicja Kwade hews a cosmos from steel and stone on the Met’s roof

An astronomical ballet has landed on the roof of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for the summer. The 2019 Roof Garden commission has gone to Polish-German artist Alicja Kwade, who has installed two stark sculptural interventions in the space overlooking Central Park; ParaPivot I and ParaPivot II, which will be on display through October 27. The Berlin-based Kwade has suspended nine marble spheres, each mined in a different country, including Norway, Finland, and Brazil, and uniquely veined and colored, in a simulacrum of our solar system. Each planetoid weighs between a hefty half-to-one-and-a-half tons, but have been effortlessly elevated by angular, interlocking powder-coated steel frames. The color and patterning of each carefully-selected stone mimic the most well-known features of each planet. (The nine planets represented include Pluto, which was demoted from planet-status in 2006.) As the frames fan out from a central point, the spheres’ arrangements suggest the elliptical, wobbly orbits found throughout our solar system, with many of them playfully balanced and wedged between the scaffolding. The Met describes the ParaPivot structure as evoking the “astrolabe, a scientific instrument invented in ancient Greece and perfected by Islamic astronomers in the medieval period to chart the trajectories of the stars and planets.” However, the piece is site-specific for a reason. Each rectangular scaffold creates a curated view of the Manhattan skyline, and both frames the city as well as suggests a “support” that holds it up. The effect is meant to tie the Earthly setting to the astronomical theme. Unfortunately, because of the delicate interplay between stone and steel, visitors aren’t allowed to walk underneath either ParaPivot.
Placeholder Alt Text

Pepsi denies plans to advertise in space

Soft drink giant PepsiCo has shot down reports that it plans to advertise in low Earth orbit (LEO), after reports surfaced last week in Futurism that the company was working on a “space billboard.” Using a small fleet of satellites armed with reflective mylar sails, the company was reportedly going to advertise a new drink called Adrenaline Rush, targeted to a “stereotyped” minority—gamers. Enter Russian company StartRocket, which has proposed using CubeSats—satellites that measure 4-inches-by-4-inches-by-4-inches—to create orbital billboards that would be visible all over the planet. The tiny satellites would be ferried into LEO via a rocket, and their solar panels and large mylar sails would unfold after the satellites were ejected from the main vessel. The CubeSats would then arrange themselves to form an image or message, and the “billboard” would be visible at dawn or dusk as they reflected sunlight. Although costs have been dropping and the same basic principles that StartRocket wants to build off of have been used for artistic purposes, no form of space-based advertising has ever been successfully deployed before. If the company can make its CubeSat system work, its floating advertisements would circle the Earth from approximately 250-to-310 miles away and would have a viewable surface area of about 19 square miles. On April 13, it seemed that Pepsi was going to be the first soda in space. A Russian PepsiCo spokesperson, Olga Mangova, told Futurism that the company had partnered with StartRocket and was working to create the advertising campaign of the future. Then, Pepsico made an abrupt about-face. “We can confirm StartRocket performed an exploratory test for stratosphere advertisements using the Adrenaline GameChangers logo,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told SpaceNews. “This was a one-time event; we have no further plans to test or commercially use this technology at this time.” However, as Futurism points out, this was likely an attempt by PepisCo to deflect criticism after the company came under heavy fire on social media over the proposal. A PepsiCo spokesperson "clarified" that there had been a translation error between the media and the company's Russian employees, and that they had been referring to a high-altitude balloon test earlier in April, not a future campaign. That wouldn't make sense, as Futurism had originally queried them over their future plans, and Mangova confirmed that they would be using an "orbital billboard"—distinctly different from a balloon. StartRocket were similarly unable to provide updated information on any ongoing, or past, PepsiCo collaborations. While no laws prohibit advertising in space in such a way that would be visible from Earth, it’s likely any real attempt to create an unavoidable billboard in the night sky would be met with pushback. Still, if it becomes cheap enough, the night sky could one day become home to airborne advertisements (but asteroid-anchored condo towers remain unlikely).
Placeholder Alt Text

SOM and MIT shoot for the Moon with design for lunar village

While NASA is researching 3D-printed habitats for the Moon and Mars, the European Space Agency (ESA) has tapped Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to envision a theoretical lunar city. The Moon Village, which SOM will masterplan, design, and engineer, not only reflects the collaborative nature of the ESA’s mission but also lays out a plan—and base of operations—for space exploration past 2050. As Israel prepares to potentially land the first privately-funded spacecraft on the Moon, the Moon Village would take a decidedly more multinational approach and could be used by future science missions or even space tourists. Set up along the rim of the Shackleton crater on the Moon’s south pole, which receives continuous sunlight for nearly all of the lunar year, the Moon Village would rely on solar power to generate electricity. The possibility of water ice inside the crater itself, which is always shadowed, would provide the colony with another potential resource to tap. “The project presents a completely new challenge for the field of architectural design,” said SOM Design Partner Colin Koop. “The Moon Village must be able to sustain human life in an otherwise uninhabitable setting. We have to consider problems that no one would think about on Earth, like radiation protection, pressure differentials, and how to provide breathable air.” How did SOM design around those tight constraints? The village’s modules would all inflate or deflate depending on their programmatic needs. Each structure would be about three-to-four stories tall and contain living quarters, environmental controls, life support systems, and workspaces. Eventually, 3D-printed regolith shells could protect the modules from radiation, fluctuations in temperature (although Shackleton crater has a more consistent temperature than other parts of the Moon), and dust. Modules would be clustered and linked through pressurized tunnels to provide easy transportation between them. A series of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments could help determine how to best use the Moon’s natural resources. Oxygen and possibly rocket fuel could be generated from the nearby ice, and food could be conceivably grown in the environment. The Moon Village has been envisioned as a three-stage development that would eventually create a long-term, sustainable Moon community. The first phase, the master plan revealed on April 9, used near-future technology; but, as Fast Company pointed out, the Moon Village would still be reliant on international cooperation, and that’s far from assured right now.
Placeholder Alt Text

Government shutdown delays deployment of orbital art satellite

After a successful Kickstarter campaign raised over $76,000 to launch the world’s first “space sculpture” into orbit, plans to deploy the 100-foot-long reflective balloon have been put on hold thanks to the record-breaking U.S. government shutdown. Orbital Reflector was conceived by American artist Trevor Paglen through a partnership with the Nevada Museum of Art. The ambitious satellite-based installation was supposed to deploy its angular, self-inflating payload once in orbit and create a sky-high “mirror” that would circle the globe for two months. The diamond-shaped, polyethylene balloon is coated in a titanium dioxide-finish that would have reflected sunlight back down to the Earth at night—a gesture the Nevada Museum of Art hoped would inspire in viewers all over the world “a renewed sense of wonder.” The satellite carrying Orbital Reflector successfully made it into space on a December 3, 2018, launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with 63 other satellites, most of them CubeSats. A CubeSat is sized in standard U units; one “U” is equal to 4-inches-by-4-inches-by-4-inches; the satellite carrying Orbital Reflector is only 3U, about the size of a brick. Because of the government shutdown, only half of the satellites from that December launch have been able to detach from the rocket and move into independent orbits, as every satellite requires a unique ID number so that it can be tracked. According to an update posted on the project’s Kickstarter page on January 22:
A division of the United States Air Force known as CSpOC (Combined Space Operations Center) is faced with the task of properly identifying each of those satellites so that they can be tracked as they orbit the earth. Six weeks post-launch, that task is still not complete; only half of the satellites from the launch have been properly identified. Many of the satellites that launched together remain in a cluster and until they separate it is difficult to correctly identify each one. Prior to the holidays, we had been working very closely with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and other relevant space-related authorities to deploy the balloon at the right time for a safe trajectory. The FCC had asked us to wait for their go-ahead before we deploy the balloon. Since the government shutdown began, communication with the FCC has been suspended, as they are not operational at this time.
When the tracking information for Orbital Reflector becomes available, terrestrial art patrons can track the installation via the Star Walk 2 app. The sky-high conceptual piece was supposed to orbit the Earth for two months, completing a rotation around the planet every 94 minutes. It remains to be seen whether the time spent in limbo will eat into that period, or if the satellite will be able to deploy before the orbit of the SpaceX rocket it’s attached to begins to decay.
Placeholder Alt Text

Suspended structure will house research into space-exploring Japanese robots

New York–based firm Clouds Architecture Office has designed a suspended research facility for AVATAR X, a partnership between ANA Holdings Inc. and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Japanese space agency, developing space-exploring robots. The levitating building will be at the center of the AVATAR X Lab Oita campus, which will host office and laboratory space for various tech companies invited to participate in the partnership's research, along with a lunar-like landscape for testing remotely-operated vehicles. AVATAR X is focused on developing avatars, specialized robots that humans can direct and manipulate from a remote location, thereby obviating the need for humans to go to space themselves. The floating lab structure will stand nearly 60 feet above the bottom of an artificial crater at the center of the campus. A series of other buildings will complete the campus in Oita prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.
Placeholder Alt Text

First-ever luxury space hotel shoots for the stars

Forget all about skyscrapers hung from orbiting asteroids, the next big trend in astronomic real estate may be in space stations. Developer Orion Span has revealed Aurora Station, a luxury space hotel that will house guests 200 miles above the Earth’s surface come 2022. First announced at the Space 2.0 Summit in San Jose, California, on April 5, Aurora Station is laying claim to the world’s first fully-modular space station. While Aurora’s first capsule will only be 43.5 feet long and 14 feet across, renderings show the station branching out as extensions are added. “We developed Aurora Station to provide a turnkey destination in space. Upon launch, Aurora Station goes into service immediately, bringing travelers into space quicker and at a lower price point than ever seen before, while still providing an unforgettable experience,” said chief executive officer and founder of Orion Span, Frank Bunger, in a press release. “Orion Span has additionally taken what was historically a 24-month training regimen to prepare travelers to visit a space station and streamlined it to three months, at a fraction of the cost. Our goal is to make space accessible to all, by continuing to drive greater value at lower cost.” The aforementioned three-month training certification, the Orion Span Astronaut Certification (OSAC), is completed in three parts; the first online, the second at Orion Span’s state-of-the-art training facility in Houston, Texas, and the third on Aurora Station itself. While rocket launches have become exponentially cheaper in recent years thanks to private competition, guests will still pay a premium for their zero-gravity stay aboard Aurora Station. A 12-day trip will cost $9.5 million per person, or nearly $800,000 per day, with a refundable $80,000 deposit. According to Orion Span, the first four months of reservations have already sold out in the three days since the station was revealed. The initial Aurora Station capsule would fit six astronauts in a 35-foot-by-14-foot living space, two of whom would be trained crew. Once onboard, guests could watch the sun rise and set as the station rotated around the Earth every 90 minutes, grow food, and use a VR setup that Orion Span has dubbed a “holodeck”. While space tourism is nothing new (Russia is aiming to attach a luxury hotel to the International Space Station by 2022), it remains to be seen how much of Orion Span’s plan will be realized. As Bloomberg notes, the company hasn’t released its funding goals or contracted a launch provider yet, and the four-year window is an ambitious one for building a space station. Still, if Aurora gets into Low Earth Orbit in 2021 and begins accepting guests in 2022, Orion Span plans to branch out into space condos and may sell attachable capsules for those looking to claim a slice of space life.
Placeholder Alt Text

NASA’s bold space habitats inspired a generation of designers

This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.
Placeholder Alt Text

Moon Camp complex and Space Hotel debated by congress

The purpose of the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) was debated by congress last month. Congress agreed on the role NASA could potentially play in the future, contemplating the possibility of a hotel on the International Space Station (ISS) and and camp base on the moon. Despite the somewhat whimsical ideas being thrown about, the notion of re-aligning NASA's objectives was paramount. The race for the next frontier in space may have already started with Russian firm Orbital Technologies. That company has put forward the idea for a Commercial Space Station (CSS), though space get-away's wouldn't be cheap. Travel costs are estimated to begin at $800,000 with another $160,000 piled on for your stay. The space hotel concept relies solely on prefabricated components, a method successfully employed for the ISS. Architects and engineers, however, would be free from the earthly worries of damp-proofing, load bearing walls, vapor checks though envelope performance, and making sure the structure is sturdy. When a new addition is sent up to the ISS, it is primarily function-orientated with little attention given to its aesthetic qualities. For a commercial space station, this would likely change. The debate for moon camps in congress however, only arose as an idea to give astronauts six-month training prior to lengthier expeditions to Mars. Whether NASA plans to construct such a spectacle remains to be seen, though it appears the decision is out of their hands.
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.