“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,” explains researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault, also from the Langley Research Centre.
Besides offering protection from the harsh environmental realities of Mars, the Ice Home would be super light compared to other settlement ideas that involve constructing buildings here on Earth before shooting them off to the Red Planet. One of the best ways for humans to survive on Mars, the team says, is to burrow underground, which offers the best protection from all of the harmful things on the surface.
To do that, though, some sort of shelter will need to be waiting for the astronauts once they get there, and the team thinks the ice dome – with its lightweight frame, easy construction, and ability to use water materials that are already on the planet – might be the perfect solution.
“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,” explains team member Kevin Kempton.
Without the inflatable habitat, which the team says can inflate and cover itself with ice extracted from the Martian landscape in about 400 Earth days, researchers would have to likely find a way to get heavy drilling and digging machines on Mars to create underground shelters before astronauts got there, a concept that would be far too complicated and cost way too much money.
While it’s important to remember that the Ice Home is still in its conceptual stage, it’s looking like a promising solution to the all of the various troubles that come along with living on Mars, and it very well might be the first thing future pioneers see when they get off that spacecraft after months of intense space travel.