NASA Langley’s Icy Concept for Living on Mars

Credits: NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch
Credits: NASA/Clouds AO/SEArch

When astronauts set foot on Mars, they may stay for months rather than days as they did during Apollo missions to the moon. The surface of Mars has extreme temperatures and the atmosphere does not provide adequate protection from high-energy radiation. These explorers will need shelters to effectively protect them from the harsh Martian environment and provide a safe place to call home.

For researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the best building material for a new home on Mars may lie in an unexpected material: ice. Starting with a proposed concept called “Mars Ice Dome,” a group of NASA experts and passionate designers and architects from industry and academia came together at Langley’s Engineering Design Studio. The team at Langley had assistance in their concept study, as a collaborative team from Space Exploration Architecture and the Clouds Architecture Office that produced a first-prize winning entry for the NASA Centennial Challenge for a 3D-printed habitat (Mars Ice House) played a key role in the design session.

“All of the materials we’ve selected are translucent, so some outside daylight can pass through and make it feel like you’re in a home and not a cave,” Langley Mars Ice Home principal investigator Kevin Kempton said. It’s important, Kempton said, for astronauts to have something to look forward to when they arrive on the Red Planet. “After months of travel in space, when you first arrive at Mars and your new home is ready for you to move in, it will be a great day,” he said.