News / October 2019
Wednesday 13 March 2019
HASSELL releases final designs for first human habitation on Mars

The HASSELL design for human habitation on Mars has reached the final 10 of NASA’s 3D Printing Centennial Challenge.

This NASA competition sought perspectives from outside the traditional aerospace industry to explore how a human habitat could be designed, and delivered, on Mars using autonomous 3D printing technologies.

HASSELL saw this as an opportunity to push their thinking on human-centric design with an approach that moves beyond the idea of astronauts as purely operators, to create a habitat where people can not only survive life on Mars, but really thrive there.

HASSELL Head of Design Technology and Innovation, Xavier de Kestelier, said the Mars Centennial Challenge is a welcome opportunity to apply a design centric approach to aerospace design.

“The first astronauts on Mars will have travelled more than 1000 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon to get there. What is more, the mission will last more than three years, which is triple the amount of time anyone has lived off Earth." 

“Designing for space exploration is typically very functional. It focuses on achieving maximum performance and maximum efficiency for technology and machines – but not for people.” Xavier said.

The HASSELL vision sets out an environment on Mars, which is not only high performance, but also provides a degree of comfort and familiarity for the astronauts. It is an environment where they feel safe and equipped to do the most important work in the history of space exploration.

HASSELL teams in London and San Francisco studios partnered with engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan (EOC), to design an external shell, which could be constructed entirely by autonomous robots using Mars’ natural regolith. This shell will protect the astronauts from the planet’s high radiation levels.

Ben Lewis, Head of EOC’s Digital Design Team, said “We used highly sophisticated parametric design techniques to achieve a structure that provides maximum protection, while minimising the quantity of materials required and the amount of time the robots would need to build it.”

The robots would be sent to Mars a few years before the astronauts are due to arrive. These intelligent autonomous robots will have interchangeable roles, from battery storage to scout rovers, logistics to excavation and even 3D printing units. All integrated with multiple cameras and sensors for navigation. They can reconfigure themselves for a multitude of purposes ensuring prolonged usage beyond the initial build phases.

Once the astronauts land, they would rapidly construct the building’s interior using a series of inflatable ‘pods’ that incorporate all the living and working requirements for everyday life on Mars.

Responding to the challenge that every kilogram of equipment that is brought to Mars is hugely expensive to transport, astronauts would be equipped to re-purpose and re-cycle as much waste material as possible. The workshop would therefore be one of the most important spaces in the habitat. The astronauts would be able to 3D print spare parts and tools, but also furniture and shoes from recycled plastics and packaging, and refashion fabric from the supersonic landing parachutes into clothes.

Another terrestrial approach to life on Mars is the installation of moveable storage racks similar to those used in libraries and archives in each pod.

“The racks serve different purposes depending on their location. In the working pod they would store experiments, samples and materials. The racks in the living space would contain kitchen components, bathroom facilities and even gym equipment,” Xavier said.

While the design of each pod, be it a lab, a living room or a green house, is in principle the same, this rack system personalises them and provides the opportunity to swap out or combine functions, creating a sense of a true ‘community’ rather than a series of singular structures.

“People will be living here for a significant amount of time, so we were really focused on balancing functionality with comfort. Having some elements of home comfort is critical to the health and wellbeing of the astronauts,” he said.

Overall winners of the competition will be announced later this month.

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