Colonizing Mars is the latest idea in NASA’s space exploration program but they still have a long way to go before realizing this objective. One of the biggest obstacles they need to overcome is where the first settlers on Mars will sleep and live but this problem might have been resolved after just a day of brainstorming – engineers have designed a conceptual ‘ice home’ design.
NASA is currently working on creating inflatable domes covered in ice where the first pioneers would live and work, which would give them protection from the radiation and extreme temperatures.
Senior systems engineer Kevin Vipavetz from NASA’s Langley Research Centre in Virginia said:
“After a day dedicated to identifying needs, goals, and constraints we rapidly assessed many crazy, out of the box ideas and finally converged on the current Ice Home design, which provides a sound engineering solution.”
What is an Ice Home? Upon hearing it for the first time you immediately think about igloos and you may not be that far off the Mars Ice Home concept NASA is working on encompasses an inflatable, inner-tube-like device which when fully inflated, is covered with a thick layer of protective ice. Here’s what it looks like:
The team says:
“The Mars Ice Home design has several advantages that make it an appealing concept. It is lightweight and can be transported and deployed with simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives.”
“It incorporates materials extracted from Mars, and because water in the Ice Home could potentially be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the structure itself doubles as a storage tank that can be refilled for the next crew.”
NASA’s main objective when designing these home concepts is to give the astronauts protection from the high energy radiation like the cosmic rays that can pierce through the atmosphere on Mars. The damage these rays can cause is huge, they can damage cells and increase the health risks, including the risk of cancer and acute radiation disease.
The engineers discovered that thanks to the high amount of hydrogen in ice, the layer acts as a shield against these harmful rays, which gives the astronauts excellent protection.
Just look at the illustration below and everything will be clearer. Here you can see the ice is very thick especially around the top of the dome, giving the needed radiation protection.
Researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault, also from the Langley Research Centre, says:
“The materials that make up the Ice Home will have to withstand many years of use in the harsh Martian environment, including ultraviolet radiation, charged-particle radiation, possibly some atomic oxygen, perchlorates, as well as dust storms – although not as fierce as in the movie The Martian.” .
The Ice Home is an excellent concept not just because it offers great protection from the harsh environmental conditions of Mars, but it’s also going to be extra light compared to other settlement ideas that involve constructing buildings here on Earth before shooting them off to the Red Planet.
According to the team, one of the best options for human survival is to create underground burrows because they’d give the best protection from everything harmful on the surface. But before they can create these underground living facilities the astronauts will have to have some sort of shelter waiting for them upon arrival. The team believes that the Ice Home is the perfect solution, giving excellent protection, easy construction and is also lightweight.
“After months of travel in space, when you first arrive at Mars and your new home is ready for you to move in, it will be a great day,” explains team member Kevin Kempton.
The Ice Home is still just a concept but it really looks quite promising and a much better solution than anything previously considered. It also looks quite cool so it would be a nice thing to see first upon arriving on the infamous Red Planet