Ultracool Mars habitat designs and prototypes that you could only find in sci-fi books several decades ago are now everywhere, but this one is ice-cold.
Mars is already freezing, so it would only make sense to visualize a structure completely made out of ice. SEArch/Clouds AO (a collab between Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architercture Office) went there with the Mars Ice House.
Water has already been proven to exist in huge quantities on the Red Planet—think at least a million cubic miles of it. The polar ice caps are an obvious source, though water molecules have been found on the surface, and a subterranean ocean may even lie beneath. No wonder this design was one of the previous winners of the NASA Centennial Challenge for a 3D-printed Martian habitat.
Yes, this entire thing is supposed to be autonomously 3D-printed out of ice.
How exactly is that even possible? It took the brains of astrophysicists, geologists, structural engineers, scientific advisors, and 3D-printing experts to figure out the process. Subsurface water will be extracted and then sublimated, entering a print head as vapor, which will liquefy and re-solidify into ice that will take a layered form. These layers will protect against the killer radiation that the sun bombs Mars with every day. They will also let in an otherworldly glow that, if it’s anything like the images in this video, will really make you believe you are now living in space.
By the way, if you were wondering, the structure will be pressurized so it doesn’t end up getting vaporized. It will have an outer and inner layer to further protect from intense solar radiation. A clear silica additive will give the strength of the ice a triple boost. The inner layer will be insulated with hydrophobic aerogel, which may sound like the most futuristic thing ever, but is integral to insulating the inner layer so both humans and the hydroponic garden grown to produce oxygen and food will survive on an otherwise harsh and unforgiving planet. Think of it as an automatic heating system that won’t melt the entire habitat.
Astronauts living in the Ice House will have access to a first-floor lab, gym, and meditation room that will give them an enhanced experience with light streaming in through the translucent walls. They will sleep on the second floor, which also has (of course) one of two bathrooms. Sleeping compartments will offer individual privacy, but also counter the psychological effects of isolation during an extended stay in space by encouraging interaction between crew members. The kitchen, along with a dining room and second bathroom, are on level three.
The thought that anyone can live in an ice habitat may be kind of unbelievable to Earthlings who aren’t planning on leaving this planet anytime soon, but just wait until this sort of thing becomes the norm on Mars.