Houses On Mars: NASA Release Concept Of The ‘Mars Ice Home,’ An Inflatable Dome With Ice

NASA have a lot of work to do if they are going to send astronauts to Mars one day, and they have now released the concept of houses on Mars which are giant inflatable domes covered in ice and known as the “Mars Ice Home.” As part of their early plans, these new “ice-homes” on Mars would settle the question of where NASA astronauts would live, sleep, and eat.

“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.”

These ice dome houses on Mars would also be able to provide astronauts with plenty of protection from high-energy radiation as well as temperatures that are extreme, as Science Alert has reported. Kevin Vipavetz, the senior systems engineer from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, believes that NASA has finally found a good engineering solution for homes on 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.”

NASA release the first color image of the surface of Mars as seen from the Mars Rover.
NASA release the first color image of the surface of Mars as seen from the Mars Rover. NASA scientists are working to build houses on Mars, and the concept of the 'Mars Ice Home' has just been released. [Image by NASA/Getty Images]

The “Mars Ice Home” looks like a large igloo, but NASA describe it as actually a large inflatable torus that is similar in shape to an inner-tube. Once the dome has inflated, it is then covered with a sheet of water ice for protection. The team working on this project at NASA reveal why these houses on Mars are so advantageous to astronauts.

“The Mars Ice Home design has several advantages that make it an appealing concept. It is lightweight and can be transported and deployed with simple robotics, then filled with water before the crew arrives. It incorporates materials extracted from Mars, and 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.”

NASA are quick to point out that these ice homes on Mars would not be dark like caves and would allow light inside. Kevin Kempton, the Langley Mars Ice Home principal investigator, stated that the materials for the “Mars Ice Home” that were chosen “are translucent, so some outside daylight can pass through and make it feel like you’re in a home and not a cave.”

One of the biggest goals with building these houses on Mars has been the need to protect astronauts from radiation like cosmic rays, which have the ability to penetrate through the atmosphere of Mars. Not only can these rays damage human cells, but they also greatly increase the risk of contracting cancer or developing radiation sickness. Because the “Mars Ice Home” will be covered by thick hydrogen-rich ice, astronauts should be protected from any damaging rays with this ice shield.

The researcher, Sheila Ann Thibeault, has said that the materials used in constructing the “Mars Ice Home” would not only have to be protective, but also have to survive for a long time.

“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.”

These houses on Mars would only be temporary, however. The best way to survive on Mars would be to burrow deep underground which would protect astronauts from everything on the surface of Mars. But in order to do this, astronauts would need a shelter to live in before they went underground. The “Mars Ice Home” is the perfect solution to this problem.

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San Martin celebrating after the landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars.
Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity team member Miguel San Martin celebrating after the landing of the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars. [Image by Damian Dovarganes/AP Images]

Without the ice-covered domes on Mars, scientists would need to work out how to get drilling and digging machines onto Mars to create these underground shelters before the astronauts arrived. This would be both costly and complicated. As such, the ice homes are currently thought to be the best idea to enable astronauts to visit Mars and then burrow underground with a place to live at while they are working.

These houses on Mars are still in the conceptual stages at the moment, but the “Mars Ice Home” would keep astronauts safe while they worked on their underground homes, and NASA also say that the astronauts will have something to look forward to when they arrive on the Red Planet.

[Featured Image by NASA/Getty Images]