FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — University of Arkansas School of Architecture researchers and students, in cooperation with NASA, have developed concepts for long-term habitation of Mars in response to the Mars Reference Mission, developed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Ted Krueger, assistant professor of architecture, Jerry Wall, professor of architecture and David J. Fitts, B. Arch. ’80, Flight Crew Support Division of NASA, asked students to design living and working conditions for the Mars surface. The students addressed issues related to the interior design of capsules for Mars, types of living quarters on the planet’s surface, the design of rovers or jeeps for ground transportation on the planet and ultimately, the formation of a larger outpost to sustain a permanent human presence on the planet.
This is the second School of Architecture studio undertaken in consultation with NASA and Fitts.
The students had to address conditions on the Red Planet that do not exist on Earth. The climate on Mars is generally very cold (the average daily temperature is minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit) and can vary significantly daily. Low atmospheric pressure, varied terrain, limited mobility and reduced gravity also affect habitability.
This all translates into a need to protect the crew members from Mars’ harsh environment and design large, habitable spaces that provide room for living quarters, personal space, a comfortable work environment, medical and research space and recreational space.
The students focused on various approaches to make life on Mars more simple for NASA crew members. The habitation proposals were intended to comfortably include six crew members that eventually will stay on Mars for up to approximately 500 days at a time.
One team analyzed ways to enclose the maximum amount of interior space on the planet surface in order to support long-term habitation. The team suggested utilizing natural resources on Mars and extremely lightweight material from Earth to aid in construction of a habitat. This would reduce transportation costs and allow for construction of a larger habitat. A larger habitat would also help improve the morale of the crew, which is critical for a long-term mission of this nature.
Another team suggested that a cylindrical habitation module with views from each level would improve spatial depth in the limited Mars environment. This aerospace habitat would also accommodate the physical and psychological needs of crew members and help simulate the comforts of life on Earth.
An inflatable habitat that includes areas for research, medical and work areas was also recommended. This type of habitat is more easily transported to Mars and allows for minimal construction set up and maintenance, thereby allowing crew members to avoid the dangerous Mars atmosphere and improve crew safety.
The interior of each habitat includes crew quarters, bathrooms, a medical station, exercise area, lab/work area, galley, wardroom and a reading room to allow for additional individual privacy. In this interior format, crew members sleep on the top level of the habitat in private chambers. Conferences and experiments are conducted on the second floor. In order to maintain a balance between work and individual time, the work stations and living quarters are separate.
The transportation group provided suggestions for long-range exploration, unpressurized exploration rovers and reconnaissance vehicles to improve mobility on the planet. This suite of vehicles would be used to explore the Mars surface.
Each of these concepts could be integrated into the development of an outpost suitable for a sustained human presence on Mars. One team investigated design strategies that linked several enclosed spaces so that crew members have improved mobility. In this larger outpost, which would be created over time, the assets of several missions would be combined to create a larger community for crew members.
As part of the initial research, the students visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston where they consulted NASA’s technical and design staff, learned about the issues affecting long-term habitation of Mars, the requirements of the Mars mission and the life of the astronauts on the mission.
Initial design projects included designing a coffeemaker for use in zero gravity as well as developing methods of vertical travel in a Martian structure.
For the students, the studio provided an opportunity to propose suggestions that may eventually be applied to future NASA efforts. It also allowed them to improve their problem-solving skills and gain a greater understanding of how to design for elemental human needs, needs that are taken for granted on Earth.