MIT's Revolutionary Design for Life on Mars
Mars might be one of the most inhospitable planets for humans, but it doesn't have to be. As a team from MIT just proved, life on the Red Planet could be far more comfortable and familiar than we ever thought possible.
As part of Mars City Design's 2017 architectural design competition, MIT's award-winning plans show that life on Mars could include much of what we love about life on Earth.
MIT's nine-person squad, comprised of various university departments and research groups, scored the top prize for its concept titled "Redwood Forest."
Fronted by Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller and Post-doctoral fellow Valentina Sumini, the MIT team's vision puts future Martian settlers in domes that can sustain up to 50 people, interconnected by subterranean tunnels, as part of larger communities with populations of 10,000.
The structures would provide shelter from the Martian environment—average temperatures well below 0-degrees Fahrenheit, an atmosphere consisting of over 90 percent carbon dioxide, giant dust storms—while also using locally resourced water and soil.
MIT design team member and AeroAstro doctoral student George Lordos, responsible for Redwood Forest's system architecture, explained to the MIT alumni blog Slice of MIT that "Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the Sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the Tree, and every Tree is designed as a water-rich environment...water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens. Solar panels produce energy to split the stored water for the production of rocket fuel, oxygen, and for charging hydrogen fuel cells, which are necessary to power long-range vehicles as well as provide backup energy storage in case of dust storms."
Postdoc Sumini further explained to the MIT alumni blog that the "design workflow is parametric, which means that each habitat is unique and contributes to a diverse forest of urban spaces."
The designers also note such a blueprint could find some Earthbound use, putting electric vehicles in networks under cities to help ease surface congestion or put living spaces on the sea floor, in deserts or high latitudes.
The methods suggested for Redwood Forest could allow for hydroponic gardening beneath communities, lowering transportation and land costs.