NASA is planning to build the “Mars Ice Home”, a large inflatable torus that is surrounded by a shell of water ice, reports The TeCake.
Astronauts who venture to the red planet often stay for months rather than days. The surface of Mars features extreme temperatures, and the atmosphere does not provide protection from radiation. In order to shelter space explorers from the harsh Martian environment, researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center proposed the creating a dome made of ice.
Kevin Vipavetz, a Langley senior systems engineer, said:
After a day dedicated to identifying needs, goals and constraints we rapidly assessed many crazy, out of the box ideas and finally converged on the current Ice Home design, which provides a sound engineering solution.
The Mars Ice Home design has a few notable advantages that make it an appealing concept. First, it is lightweight and can be transported using simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives. The Ice Home incorporates materials extracted from Mars, and the water in the home can be converted into rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle.
Another critical benefit of the Ice Home is that water – a hydrogen-rich material – works as an excellent shield for cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are high-energy radiation rays that can pass right through human skin, damaging the cells which can mean an increased risk for cancer later in life or, even acute radiation sickness. The design of the Ice Home maximizes the thickness of ice above to reduce radiation exposure, but it also still allows light to pass through the ice and surrounding materials.
“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,” Kempton said.
Langley researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault also added: “The materials that make up the Ice Home will have to withstand many years of use in the harsh Martian environment, including ultraviolet radiation, charged-particle radiation, possibly some atomic oxygen, perchlorates, as well as dust storms – although not as fierce as in the movie ‘The Martian’.”