Melody Yashar - Co-founder of Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch +), a company that develops engineering
Mars X-House: a new word in the development of other planets
- How will Mars exploration proceed? What are the first steps?
- After landing the rocket on Mars, the robots will startautomatically explore the environment and look for a suitable site for the colonialist camp. Then we will start extracting local materials. The robots will search for the necessary soil and use the extracted materials for 3D printing.
- Why did you choose water for this?
- As a building material, weplanned to use ice. It has been scientifically proven that there is water several centimeters below the surface of Mars. And water is a natural shield, it can protect astronauts from solar and other radiation.
- What does the proposed design of the Martian camp look like?
- The outer part is inflatablemembrane. The inner one includes ice cubes that we plan to create using 3D printing. In fact, the camp is an inflatable membrane in the form of a bubble covered with ice from the inside. The inner space contains rooms and living quarters for four astronauts. A separate living room has also been thought out so that they can work there.
- What happened next after you applied for the competition?
- We submitted the first project application at the competitionin 2015. It was called Mars Ice House. After the first phase of the competition, we were contacted by representatives of NASA's engineering department. They proposed to continue research in this direction and develop our idea. So we came up with a project called Mars Ice Home.
What is snow for me, what is heat for me when Mars is with me
- How did the project change further?
- At the third stage of the competition, we changedconstruction material. They gave up ice and water and switched to using local soil. As a result, our concept was named Mars X-House. In addition to the Martian soil, we planned to use polyethylene, that is, plastic, in construction. We wanted to complete the construction within one year.
- Why did you choose plastic?
- Polyethylene and high density plastic canprotect the team from radiation, and for us the safety of the crew is above all. Within the common space, we planned, firstly, a common workroom in which, for example, astronauts could conduct geological analysis of local soil samples. Secondly, there are four living cabins in which the crew members can rest or work separately, as well as a wardroom in which they can get together.
- Tell us more about the concept of your system and what technologies will you use?
- As part of the Mars X-House project, we came tofunctional separation of work and living space. The concept of our project resembles other concepts of autonomous systems, corrected for Mars. We planned that the rocket would land on the surface of Mars, and the lander would transport everything needed for 3D printing. These will be 3D printers and robotic platforms that allow autonomous printing of the outer shell of the habitat.
The basis is a simulation of plastic printing and movementrobots. This is how 3D printers will work. The final concept looks like this: the outer part of the habitat is printed from the soil of Mars, and the inner elements are made of plastic and dense polyethylene. We just know that Martian soil contains toxic elements that can be dangerous to humans.
- How will the external part be printed?
- First the foundation is printed and then -internal elements made of plastic. The outer shell is printed last from the Martian earth. Astronauts won't have to contact her directly.
NASA's competition allowed us to do someelements of the plan. For example, one of them was 3D printed in a studio in Boston. These tests are very important to us, as we test the ability of autonomous 3D printing with robots and teach them to place plastic elements inside the printed structure.
At the end of the competition and 3D printing, we conductedhydrostatic test. We just filled the cells with water to test for water resistance. We were very lucky: we were able to keep the water inside at a height of 30 cm, and that was enough to win the competition. Our work is aimed at rethinking the concept of an autonomous habitat in the short term in order to help humanity that lives on Earth, and in the long term, in order to ensure life on Mars.
About 3D printing and houses on Mars
- Today there are a lot of problems with 3D printing of houses. For example, because of the need to reinforce them. How do you solve this problem, since it is inconvenient and expensive to transport rebar from Earth?
- The more such houses are built on Earth,which can be built on Mars, the more likely it is that in the future similar houses will be on the Red Planet. We will only get closer to real homes on Mars in the future. But even before the construction of housing, you will have to build and maintain the infrastructure for it: roads and so on.
- What principles are laid in the construction and construction of houses on other planets?
- First of all, it is important that housing isclosed, but allowed the astronauts to see everything from the outside. This requires natural light. From a health point of view, housing needs to protect astronauts from radiation. This is done through the design, infrastructure and architecture of the building, but involving the materials used. For the first, flagship mission to Mars, you need to make sure you have enough storage space. The same goes for the dividing zones so that everyone can go about their business, conduct experiments and the like.
- Mars receives less sunlight compared to Earth. Wouldn't such houses be too gloomy, and people suffer from depression?
- Naturally, during the expedition to Mars astronautswill have to adapt strongly to the conditions. Just to get to Mars, it will take at least 7-8 months. Offering bunkers to the astronauts due to the enormous radiation did not seem like a good idea. Astronauts will not have access to sunlight. Flying for over half a year and then being underground is not a good idea. An idea with 3D printers came to the rescue. Houses like this will be built above the surface and will have windows. So astronauts will be able to observe what is happening around and be sufficiently protected.
- There are many talented people in Russia. Can they also participate in NASA contests?
- It's possible. I know this firsthand, since I worked with a Russian team. Everything was fine, but there is one problem. The only limitation is that NASA is part of the US government, and only citizens of this country can receive prize money. You can participate, but you won't be able to get money.
- Would you like to participate in an expedition to Mars, and not just build for Mars?
- I am often asked this question, and I answer: "Not". Have you seen the capsules we lived in? It is very difficult and uncomfortable. Do I want to be the first person to fly to Mars? Probably not. But if in 100 years these travels become commonplace, I am sure they will be comfortable. Unfortunately, at the moment it is not possible to reach even the ISS with comfort.
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