Image Source: AI SpaceFactory
SpaceX's ultimate goal is to develop spacecraft to transform humans into a multi-planet species. The company is currently developing Starship, that will be capable of transporting 100 passengers plus tons of cargo to Mars. Starship will be designed to have rooms and offer travelers beautiful views of space through honeycomb-like windows located at the top nose cone section. The 250-million-mile nonstop voyage to Mars would span approximately six to eight months.
Upon arrival, even though Starship could be utilized for initial habitat, the goal is to develop a colony on Martian land. Technology like 3D printed homes could be a good option for first SpaceX Starship astronaut arrivals. Mars does has plenty of rock and ice, but the thin atmosphere does not provide oxygen nor protection from space radiation. The surface is deadly to terrestrial life without a spacesuit. Gravity is also different -it is one third the pull of Earth, so if you weigh 100 pounds on Earth you would weigh only 38 pounds on Mars. Martian conditions require more complex structures that must be technologically designed for survival. They would need to have the capability of providing oxygen, handle thermal stresses, shield from space radiation, and maintain an internal atmospheric pressure among other vital things.
A sustainable Mars settlement will depend on the utilization of materials found on Mars. In the space industry this is often referred to as developing In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) technologies. We could import materials from Earth but without ISRU, maintaining a permanent human presence on extraterrestrial terrain would be impossible, because the cost to import materials from Earth would be too high and they would not arrive soon enough if settlers' life depends on having a certain tool for survival. Therefore, developing ISRU technologies that could help the first settlers survive using what is available on the Red Planet's surface is very important.
A space architecture startup called AI SpaceFactory won a NASA-led competition last year, they designed a 3D-printed Mars habitat, demonstrating some of the technologies needed to build them. The Mars habitat is named MARSHA (video above) could become one of the first space habitats because the technology will be capable of utilizing Martian soil plus rocks to 3D print a home structure. The habitat has several floors, each level has at least 1 window, which provide a 360 degree panorama. The design has indirect natural light that would come from a large water-filled skylight and intermittent windows. MARSHA would keep the crew safe from harmful solar and cosmic radiation. The engineers even thought of incorporating Circadian lighting. That type of lightning refers to the natrual kind of lightning our sun emits as the day progresses, it imitates the in color, angle, and intensity. Recreating Earthly light, would maximize the crew's psychological health.
If NASA and SpaceX were to collaborate with AI SpaceFactory in the future, Starship would only have to import minimum cargo for building a home. They would carry MARSHA 3D printer robot machines, some windows, airlocks, etc. to build living headquarters. Robot machines could even be sent in advance of human crews to harvest the raw Martian terrain and convert it into 3D printable material for home assembly, or other structures. Perhaps they could even send the robots to begin building the habitats first before human arrivals.
Follow me on Twitter Evelyn J. Arevalo
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.