Space has long captured our imaginations. Looking to the ocean above us, writers, scientists and designers alike have continuously dreamed up new visions for a future on distant planets. Mars is at the center of this discourse, the most habitable planet in our solar system after Earth. Proposals for the red planet explore how we can create new realms of humanity in outer space.
Mars: The Latest Architecture and News
Up until now, space architecture has been mainly focused on engineering, centered on projects like orbital space stations or Martian exploration convoys, commissioned by world space agencies such as ESA (Europe) or NASA (USA). But in recent years, an increasingly broader spectrum of professionals (e.g. architects, sociologists) as well as entrepreneurs and investors (not all well intentioned) have joined the challenge of designing extraterrestrial built environments, the new space race of the 21st century.
The fast development of technology, the increase of world population and the climate change crisis create the perfect setting to think about life outside of our planet, and as these trends continue to evolve and converge, new opportunities to explore options beyond our traditional limits appear (NEOM), as well as new organizations which support this research (like SATC, SICSA). Even though no one is currently on Mars, many ongoing projects and simulations (MARS-ONE, Mars City Science) are already exploring how we will design, build and inhabit the new realms of humanity in outer space.
Bjarke Ingels Group has been working on the Mars Science City project after the United Arab Emirates announced the initiative in 2017. The $140 Million USD (AED 500 million) research city aims to serve as a “viable and realistic model” for the simulation of human occupation of the martian landscape. The project is designed with a team of Emirati scientists, engineers and designers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.
Designers Warith Zaki and Amir Amzar have imagined a project that seeks to find alternatives to traditional construction material in order to build the first settlements on Mars. In fact, they opted for a natural earthy element that competes with wood, brick and concrete, and drafted a project that uses bamboo.
In the Negev Desert of Israel, SAGA Space Architects are collaborating with D-MARS to build a Mars Lab Habitat that will simulate the conditions of living in a confined space on the hazardous surface of the red planet. The laboratory structure they’ve designed is an addition to D-MARS' existing Mars simulation habitat and will be part of a larger experiment. This habitat will serve as a prototype for a longer mission scheduled for 2020.
SEArch+ and Apis Cor have won first place in the Virtual Construction level of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge, seeking to create sustainable shelters suitable for the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Using resources available on-site in these locations, the female-led, New York-based space research and design practice proposed the MARS X HOUSE, offering a robust, durable 3D-printed habitat using autonomous robotics.
Led by SEArch+ co-founder Melodie Yashar, the scheme employs evidence-based design for the form and constructability of the future habitat, intended for a crew of four to live and work on Mars for one Earth year. The habitat is designed to exceed radiation standards in order to ensure human health while connecting the crew with natural light and views of the Martian landscape.
Architecture and technology company AI SpaceFactory has completed the autonomous construction of MARSHA, a proposal for a Martian surface habitat for NASA. The 3D printed shelter is one of five finalists in an international competition to design and build a habitat for a crew of four astronauts on a mission to Mars. AI SpaceFactory formulated their own material – a “Martian polymer” that can be made from matter found or grown on the planet.
Life in Space
AI SpaceFactory has released details of their proposed cylindrical huts for the Planet Mars, designed as part of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge organized by NASA. Project MARSHA (Mars HAbitat) was endorsed by NASA with a top prize of almost $21,000, one of five designs selected from a field of seventeen.
The competition asked participants to design an effective habitat for a crew of four astronauts to be located on the Red Planet, using construction techniques enabled by 3D printing. The submitted schemes were then ranked based on their innovation, architectural layout, and level of detail in BIM modeling.
Foster + Partners will detail its vision of life on Mars and the Moon at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed 2018. Forming part of the festival's Future Lab event, the vision will be presented through a range of models, robotics, and futuristic designs exploring the future of life in space.
The firm's showcase will include a virtual reality experience, allowing visitors to explore the inside of a proposed state-of-the-art habitation pod.
Since the start of time, we humans have been captivated by the mystical nature of other celestial bodies surrounding our Planet Earth. This fascination has been translated to works of astronomy, astrology, architecture and many other studies from making a simple telescope to humankind’s first steps on the Moon. This unending drive for exploration has today led us to understanding our neighboring solar systems and galaxies, thousands of light years away.
At this morning’s International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, SpaceX founder and Lead Designer Elon Musk announced the most ambitious plans yet for the colonization of planets and satellites beyond Earth, including the establishment of a lunar base and a permanent Mars colony by 2022.
“The future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we’re a space-faring species than if we’re not,” said Musk during his keynote. “It’s about believing in the future and thinking the future will be better than the past.”
The government of the United Arab Emirates has announced the launch of the Mars Science City project, a $140 Million USD (AED 500 million) research city that will serve as a “viable and realistic model” for the simulation of human occupation of the martian landscape. Designed by a team of Emirati scientists, engineers and designers from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in partnership with Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the 1.9 million-square-foot domed structure will become the largest space simulation city ever constructed.
The team of Foster + Partners and Branch Technology have been awarded first prize in the latest stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a $2.5 million multi-phase competition designed to generate ideas and advance technology for the construction of sustainable housing solutions “for Earth and beyond.”
After printing three cylinder and three beams the first two levels of Phase 2, Stage 3 asked teams to design and print a 1.5-meter dome using indigenous Martian soil and recyclable materials, envisioning how future habitats could be constructed on the Red Planet. Teams were required to develop the 3-D printing technology itself as well as the structural design for each dome. The competition also dictated each structure be built within a 22-hour time frame, using the specific materials, geometric tolerances and autonomous performance that would be demanded by the Martian landscape.
NASA has announced the completion of the initial printing stage of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, awarding Foster + Partners | Branch Technology and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks as the two top-scoring teams from this round.
After Phase 1 of the competition (won by Clouds AO and SEArch) tasked architects and engineers from around the globe to imagine hypothetical concepts for the habitation of Mars, Phase 2 is challenging designers to manufacture actual, 3D-printed objects using techniques that could be employed to create shelters on a future mission to the red planet or beyond.
This article was originally published by Autodesk's Redshift publication as "Life on Mars? Architects Lead the Way to Designing for Mars With Virtual Reality."
If an architecture firm is lucky, it can hit two birds with one stone on a single project—for example, prioritizing both historic preservation and energy efficiency. But a team at KieranTimberlake, based in Philadelphia, is aiming for four ambitious goals with its pro bono project, the Mars City Facility Ops Challenge.
Architects Fátima Olivieri, Efrie Friedlander, and Rolando Lopez teamed up with National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), NASA, and the Total Learning Research Institute (TLRI) to create a virtual working city on Mars—one that might reap multiple rewards.