ARCHITECTURE ON MARS
Architecture on Earth plays a critical role in the way we live. On Mars, this role reaches a higher level of importance since architectures are machines which keep us alive. In space architecture, every design decision is of great consequence to the success of a mission. Structures must be resilient and interior layouts must function around mission demands. But since sustained social and mental health is also mission-critical, space habitats should offer an element of humanity. The result is a credible and evocative habitat with an alien yet familiar beauty.
BUILDING A MARS HABITAT
In an alien environment 54.6 million kilometers away, construction and materials must be rethought entirely
In-Situ Resource Utilization
Martian exploration and settlement at any meaningful scale will depend on materials found on Mars. This is enabled by a technology known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). ISRU circumvents the limits of the rocket equation — that every 10 pounds of rocket need 90 pounds of propellant. Without ISRU, the cost of importing materials from Earth renders the project impossible.
Second, habitats should be completed with life-support systems in place before humans arrive. NASA plans to send machines in advance to harvest the Martian landscape, extracting materials for robotic printers to build our first homes on Mars in anticipation of our arrival.
MARSHA marks a radical departure from previous Martian designs typified by low-lying domes or buried structures. Where structures on earth are designed primarily for gravity and wind, special conditions on Mars point to a structure optimized to handle internal atmospheric pressure and structural stresses: a vertical container with a minimal footprint. MARSHA's vertical orientation and small footprint also alleviate the need for a construction rover moving on unfamiliar ground.
Instead, MARSHA is constructed with a vertically telescoping arm attached to a stationary rover throughout the 3D printing process. These innovations challenge the conventional image of “space age” domes by focusing on the creation of vertically oriented, human-centric habitats tuned to the demands of a Mars mission.
MARSHA uses a unique dual-shell system to isolate the habitable spaces from the natural expansion and contraction caused by extreme temperature swings on Mars. As a result, the interior is free to be light, airy, highly mass-optimized, and human: a tiny bubble of Earth on a distant world.
A day in the life of MARSHA
MARSHA's functional areas are spread over four levels identified by a unique interior atmosphere that encourages mobility and averts monotony. Via the large skylight above and intermittent windows, the space between the two shells acts as light-well connecting all levels with diffuse natural light. This unique space allows for a stair to arc gently from floor to floor, adding dimension to daily life.
MARTIAN CIRCADIAN LIGHT
Recreate Earthly light for mental health
Indirect natural light from the large water-filled skylight and intermittent windows floods the interior while still keeping the crew safe from harmful solar and cosmic radiation. Circadian lighting, designed to recreate Earthly light, is employed to maximize crew health.
Our formula for 3D-printing on Mars: basalt fiber-reinforced polylactic acid.
The economic case for settling Mars - and the creation of habitats of adequate size - hinges on in-situ resource utilization. We are formulating an innovative mixture of basalt fiber extracted from Martian rock and renewable bioplastic (polylactic acid, or PLA) processed from plants grown on Mars.
Basalt fiber is known for its superb tensile strength. It's comparable to carbon fiber and kevlar yet much simpler to produce.
Due to their low overall atomic weight, plastics are effective shields for ionizing cosmic radiation.
PLA is a strong thermoplastic that is recyclable yet and has the added benefit of in-situ manufacture.
PLA has lowest coefficient of thermal expansion among plastics – crucial to achieving composite action with chopped basalt fiber, which is also highly stable.
Being a bioplastic, emissions from PLA printing are benign, unlike petrochemical plastics which emit high levels of toxic micro-particles such as styrene.
PLA is prized for its low conductivity and basalt is among the most effective insulators known. Together, they shield against the extreme exterior environment.
Our all-star team of subject matter experts at the top of their respective fields.
AI SPACEFACTORY - DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Jeffrey Montes (Team Leader), David Malott AIA, David Riedel, Christopher Botham, Sima Shahverdi, Michael Bentley, Tony Jin
CONSORTIUM PARTNER - VIRGINIA TECH
Virginia Tech Center for Design Research --
Macromolecules Innovation Institute at Virginia Tech --
EQUIPMENT AND FACILITIES - AUTODESK TECHNOLOGY CENTER BOSTON
Dr. Nathan King, Adam Allard
THORNTON TOMASETTI - STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING
Chi Chung (Billy) Tse P.E., Dennis K. Poon P.E., Saravanan Panchacharan P.E., Hao Chen
TECHMER PM - POLYMER ENGINEERING
Tom Drye, Alan Franc
UNIVERSITY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA - PLANETARY PHYSICS
Dr. Phil Metzger
U. MICHIGAN (ACE-MRL LAB) - CONCRETE ENGINEERING
Dr. Victor Li
RWDI - BUILDING ENVELOPE ENGINEERING
ARUP - LIGHTING
MICHIGAN TECH - SYSTEMS AND CIVIL ENGINEERING
Dr. Paul van Susante
HONEYBEE ROBOTICS - EXPLORATION ROBOTICS & ISRU
Dr. Kris Zacny
STONY BROOK UNIVERSITY - MARTIAN GEOCHEMISTRY
Dr. Scott McLennan
PLOMP - VISUALIZATION
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