Building A Mars Outpost

One day, hopefully sooner than later, humans are going to try to put someone on Mars. We have the technology to put stuff there, (see Rovers, Mars), and we’re practically pros at orbiting shit around it. So, it’s really only a matter of time until we try to get there ourselves.

The NASA HDU with a student built X-Hab loft on top

Welcome home, space adventurer!

It makes sense. If you think about it.

We need to go to Mars for several reasons. The first is that we need to learn how to travel to the next planet over. To paraphrase Stephen Hawking, we can’t be a one planet species. There’s just no long term survival in it.

We also need to go there because eventually we’ll reach the end of the amount of things we can learn from our rovers. We need people there who can think and adapt and come up with new experiments or explorations relatively on the fly. These are things that, no matter how bad ass they might be, our little Martian dune buggies just can’t do.

Of course, getting there is relatively easy. What do we do once we’re there? It’s not like the people we send can just unfold a picnic blanket and enjoy all that Mars has to offer.

If you ever read the Mars Society, and I know you do, then you’ll know they’ve come up with all kinds of ingenious ways to keep people fit and fed once they’re there. But living there will also mean surviving conditions in which people just weren’t meant to.

Hence, the NASA Habitat Demonstration Unit, or HUD. It’s a project that, in it’s own words, is to:

…develop, integrate, test, and evaluate various habitat configurations that will advance NASA’s understanding of alternative mission architectures, requirements, and operations concepts for Exploration Habitats.

Why, besides the cold temperatures, unbreathable atmosphere, and the general wont of the planet Mars to kill our explorers do we need to think about habitats? Because whoever they send out there is going to be living there for a very long time. Like a year and a half.

A shot of the tight confines of the X-Hab crew quarters

In the old British Navy, every sailor was entitled by rights to nineteen inches of space...

See, we can shoot a rocket to Mars so that it’ll meet up with the planet when its at its closest to Earth in rotation but then it would be another year and a half before things line up again. So… we need a habitat that’s warm and cozy for our people to hang out in during that time.

Taking a gander of the interior the XHab module that they’re working on, I’m not certain it’s a place I’d want to spend eighteen to twenty-four months in, even if it was on Mars, but it’s cool they’re already thinking about it.

Lastly, and I got a kick out of this, the article I was reading that brought this up in regards to how to protect astronauts from deadly cosmic radiation:

NASA is also looking at ways to repurpose discarded supplies and packaging to build up the habitat wall over time.

“We can take all the garbage and compact it into these discs that we can use on the outside for radiation protection,” says Kennedy.

I don’t know why but I just keep grinning at the idea of a human habitat on Mars being layered with compressed garbage. Still, it’s a novel solution and one that doesn’t add weight to the initial launch.

Anyway, it’s clear we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready to send humans to Mars and have them live there for any length of time but it’s inspiring that someone is not just thinking about it but trying to make those thoughts a reality.

Photo Credits: NASA, NASA Desert RATS