How about Igloos on Mars? NASA unveils ice-made home concept for astronauts on the red planet

02 January 2017, 12:50 PM
How about Igloos on Mars? NASA unveils ice-made home concept for astronauts on the red planet (Representational pic)
How about Igloos on Mars? NASA unveils ice-made home concept for astronauts on the red planet (Representational pic)

In order to protect the astronauts from dangerous environment, NASA scientists may build ice homes on the red planet. Because just like our planet Earth, the atmosphere on Mars is also harsh. NASA researchers say ice could be the best building material for a new home on Mars.

The atmosphere on Mars does not provide adequate protection from high-energy radiation and there are extreme temperatures on the surface if the planet.

According to researchers, the 'Ice Home' design will provide a sound engineering solution that will offer a safe place to astronauts that they can call home.

The Mars Ice Home is a large inflatable torus. Its shape is just like an inner tube which is surrounded by a shell of water ice.

This is just one of many potential concepts for sustainable habitation on the Red Planet in support of NASA's journey to Mars.

"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," Kevin Vipavetz from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, said in a statement on Thursday.

There are several advantages of the Mars Ice Home design because of which it is an appealing concept, believes scientists.

The Mars Ice Home is lightweight and thus it can easily be transported and deployed using simple robotics, and can then be filled with water before the arrival of the crew.

The Mars Ice Home consists of some materials that are extracted from Mars. Because water in the Ice Home could potentially be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle, the structure itself doubles as a storage tank that can be refilled for the next crew.

Another critical benefit is that water, a hydrogen-rich material, is an excellent shielding material for galactic cosmic rays and many areas of Mars have abundant water ice just below the surface.

Galactic cosmic rays are one of the biggest risks of long stays on Mars.

The high-energy radiation can damage cells or DNA as they can pass right through the skin. It means an increased risk of cancer later in life or, at its worst, acute radiation sickness.

The Ice Home concept balances the need to provide protection from radiation, without the drawbacks of an underground habitat.

The design maximises the thickness of ice above the crew quarters to reduce radiation exposure while also still allowing light to pass through 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," Kevin Kempton, part of the Langley team, said.

NASA has set a goal of sending humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.

It is important for astronauts to have something to look forward to when they arrive on the Red Planet, Kempton said.

"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 noted.

(With inputs from PTI)

First Published: Friday, December 30, 2016 02:58 PM
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