mars soil composition

Students Design Space Habitat Concepts for Mars

Students Design Space Habitat Concepts for Mars

Habitation systems provide a safe place for astronauts in space and on other worlds to achieve NASA’s human exploration goals, with integrated life support systems, radiation protection, fire safety, and systems to manage food, waste, clothing, and tools. In May 2017, NASA selected four university teams to complete design projects that emphasized common elements between surface and transit habitats for missions to Mars, as part of the eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) 2018 Academic Innovation Challenge.

The X-Hab Challenge enables the agency to solve key problems using new ideas and emerging concepts, while engaging the next generation of talented engineers. X-Hab teams develop functional prototypes during the academic year, complete engineering design reviews, provide status briefings to NASA, and then present their projects for evaluation.

One challenge of deep space exploration is establishing consistency among living spaces for astronauts. A human mission to Mars mission could last up to three years, including a 250-day journey, 500 days on the surface, and 250 days to return. Astronauts traveling to the Red Planet could spend months in microgravity (near weightless), while the Mars surface will have approximately a third of Earth’s gravity. The crew’s transition to life on Mars could be much safer and faster if their surface habitat is similar to the one in which they traveled.

Mars Habitat Commonality Projects
Mars habitat commonality designs enhance efficiency in the development process and enable crew familiarity with the layout, function, and location of the surface habitat before arrival. Four university teams in the 2018 X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge conducted studies and developed partial system mockups featuring commonalities among Mars transit and surface habitat designs:

California Polytechnic State University, Pomona – Michael Fox, Faculty Lead

Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York – Michael Morris, Faculty Lead

University of Maryland, College Park – David Akin, Faculty Lead

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor – Nilton Renno, Faculty Lead

California Polytechnic State University, Pomona – “Roly Poly” Concept

The team at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona developed several concepts with commonality between in-space and surface habitat designs. These layouts were used for the transit journey to Mars and then reconfigured on Mars to better accommodate the partial gravity of that environment. A final concept inspired by a “roly poly” bug was selected for demonstration with virtual reality and a physical mockup, because it showcases a unique strategy for mobility and transformation of the surface habitat.

California Polytechnic State University habitat configured for transit.
California Polytechnic State University habitat configured for transit.
Credits: California Polytechnic State University, Pomona
California Polytechnic State University habitat configured for surface deployment.
California Polytechnic State University habitat configured for surface deployment.
Credits: California Polytechnic State University, Pomona
California Polytechnic State University habitat virtual reality model images.
Images from California Polytechnic State University habitat virtual reality model.
Credits: California Polytechnic State University, Pomona
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York – EDEN

The Pratt Institute team in Brooklyn, New York designed a large habitat system and created a ground mockup of a key element of the architecture. EDEN is a Transit Hub designed to provide a simulated Earth gravity (one-G) environment; a sustainable, fresh food source; and an environment that includes nature and natural materials to soothe the rigors of space travel. The one-G environment from the rotation of the habitat system mitigates detrimental health impacts of microgravity. To illustrate the viability of the expandable torus design, a scale segment was constructed on campus as part of this study project.

Artist concept of Pratt Institute, Brookly’s EDEN habitat system deployed for departure from Earth
Artist concept of Pratt Institute, Brooklyn’s EDEN habitat system deployed for departure from Earth.
Credits: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn EDEN habitat concept design images.
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn EDEN habitat concept design images.
Credits: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn’s habitation concept EDEN torus segment demonstration – compacted for launch and deployed for operatio
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn’s habitation concept EDEN torus segment demonstration – compacted for launch and deployed for operations.
Credits: Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
University of Maryland, College Park – Multimission Artificial Gravity Reusable Habitat (MARSH)

The team at University of Maryland, College Park developed a full concept design for a Multi-mission Artificial Gravity Reusable Habitat–including mission design, subsystem analysis, and virtual reality testing. The resulting habitat addressed all aspects of spacecraft design and addressed major concerns related to partial gravity operation, including Coriolis effects and pointing of communication dishes and solar arrays. Additionally, first-year engineering students designed, constructed, and evaluated various partial gravity staircase designs in a neutral buoyancy facility.

University of Maryland team conducts design and testing of partial gravity staircases.
University of Maryland team conducts design and testing of partial gravity staircases.
Credits: University of Maryland, College Park
University of Maryland design for crew accommodations in a MARSH habitat system.
University of Maryland design for crew accommodations in a MARSH habitat system.
Credits: University of Maryland, College Park
Snapshot from the Virtual Reality model of the MARSH habitat system designed by University of Maryland team.
Snapshot from the Virtual Reality model of the MARSH habitat system designed by University of Maryland team.
Credits: University of Maryland, College Park
University of Michigan – Argo

At the University of Michigan, the Bioastronautics and Life Support Systems team developed the Argo concept, a dual-purpose habitat architecture that can be used for deep space transit as well as the Martian surface. The Argo concept intends to solve the challenge of conflicting design requirements between partial gravity and microgravity through the implementation of artificial gravity, which will ensure that the crew will experience consistent physical conditions. The team developed virtual reality models for surface and transit habitat configurations, and physical mockups of an example node, a partial torus (a rotating system that generates gravitational force), and an airlock were developed for a concept demonstration.

University of Michigan interactive Virtual Reality model of Argo habitation concept.
University of Michigan interactive Virtual Reality model of Argo habitation concept.
Credits: University of Michigan
University of Michigan Habitation Artist Concepts
University of Michigan Habitation Artist Concepts: (top) Argo configuration deployed as surface habitat; (bottom) Argo configuration deployed as transit habitat.
Credits: University of Michigan
University of Michigan habitation concept physical mockup view and interior outfitting diagrams.
University of Michigan habitation concept images: 1) A view from a node of the physical mockup; 2) Interior Outfitting for Transit Configuration; 3) Interior Outfitting for Surface Configuration.
Credits: University of MIchigan
Each February, NASA announces a new set of X-Hab Challenges that support the agency’s efforts to develop technologies and capabilities that will enable future human missions throughout our solar system. In collaboration with the National Space Grant Foundation, NASA competitively selects awards of $15,000 to $50,000 for the development of studies, functional products, and solutions to enhance capabilities for human space exploration.

For more information about previous challenges and current requirements, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/x-hab

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