Even if we succeed in sending humans to Mars someday — NASA hopes to do that in the 2030s — astronauts would need a place to stay once they arrive.
To research how people might one day settle on Mars, engineers and scientists at a company called Interstellar Lab are designing space-inspired villages.
In November, the company announced a plan to build a development, called the Experimental Bioregenerative Station (EBIOS), in California’s Mojave Desert starting in 2021. The design for that project features glass domes for growing food and luxurious bedrooms for astronauts and visitors.
The prototype space village could be used to train astronauts for life on the red planet — or give high-paying tourists a simulation of life away from Earth.
Take a look at the concept.
In designing its prototype space habitat, Interstellar Lab considered all the resources that humans depend on to live on Earth.
“The two planets share a common ground,” Barbara Belvisi, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “What we need to bring on Mars for life is what we need to protect on Earth right now.”
The idea is just a proposal for now, but Belvisi has identified four potential locations in the Mojave desert. She told Venture Beat that she is negotiating on a property and expects to finish that process in February.
Belvisi also said she intends to raise funding for the colony’s construction.
The colony would function as a space station but on Earth. It would consist of smaller individual stations, each with its own center for astronaut training.
The stations would also come with living spaces, an art and music center, and research laboratories.
The stations would connect to glass domes that grow vegetation.
The entire compound is designed to be carbon-neutral with zero-waste. Water, food, and energy would get recycled and reused so that inhabitants could live entirely off-grid.
The colony could hold up to 100 visitors. Belvisi told Venture Beat that a single stay could cost between $3,000 and $6,000 per week.
That cost still needs to be finalized, however. The company expects astronauts to inhabit the colony for half the year. During the other half, tourists could book a stay in one of the colony’s living spaces.
As the driest desert in North America, the Mojave offers an ideal climate for simulating life on Mars.
The Mojave Desert is arid and desolate, but its temperatures are much higher than the red planet’s.
The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, temperatures can drop to minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
Interstellar Lab hopes to avoid the pitfalls of previous simulated space settlements.
In the early 1990s, a set of enclosed biomes and living spaces in the Arizona desert, called Biosphere 2, housed four men and four women. The goal was to see how humans might survive in outer space. The group lived inside for two years and attempted to be fully self-sustaining.
Over the course of that experiment, however, food became scarce and oxygen levels in the community dropped (partly because the organic matter in the soil promoted the growth of oxygen-hungry bacteria). By the end, the residents had divided into factions and some were barely on speaking terms.
Belvisi told Venture Beat she has spoken with the experiment’s alumni to learn how to avoid these issues.
For the last few months, Interstellar Lab has been working with NASA to identify new ways to grow plants and experiment with 3D printing for the Mojave site.
“A long-term, sustainable Mars or lunar settlement will only be practical if we do the research on Earth,” Greg Autry, the former White House Liaison at NASA, said in a statement.
Interstellar Lab is also looking to build another experimental settlement at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.