Science

'Mars Ice House': NASA To Build Igloo-Like Structures On Mars For Astronauts

By Anne Dominguez , Dec 30, 2016 12:32 PM EST
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Future Mars explorers will have a house to rest to in the red planet. NASA is planning to build igloo-like Mars ice house which could protect astronauts from the harsh Martian environment and let them stay for months rather than days.

Mars' surface is extremely harmful to humans. During the day, the temperature can rise up to 20 degrees Celsius near the equator and can drop to at least negative 73 degrees Celsius at night. Its atmosphere is also so thin that it cannot provide enough protection from high-energy radiation. Exposure to high-energy radiation damages the cells and the DNA that may later cause cancer, or worse, acute radiation sickness.

NASA researchers found the potential solution to these problems -- ice. The Mars Ice House is made up of an inflatable torus shaped like an inner tube which is surrounded by shells of water ice. The design promises major advantages. It is very lightweight so it can be built by robotics before the astronauts come. The water in the ice house can also be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle as the structure itself also functions as a storage tank.

The hydrogen-rich material from the ice can protect the crew from radiation. A thick layer of ice will protect the crew from above while still letting light pass through the translucent material. Meanwhile, layers of carbon dioxide gas will act as insulators to manage the temperature inside the Mars ice house.

"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'," Langley researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault said according to NASA.

The concept of the Mars ice house was a collaborative effort of the Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch), Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO) team and NASA, cited Mail Online. One problem of the design is the limited water on Mars. It would need at least 400 days to fill up the ice packs. Learn more about the project HERE. View the design below.

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