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Mars Space Build

Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition 61

In June, we discussed news that JPL and MakerBot were teaming up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium. Second place went to a martian pyramid with an aquaponics system on top, mirror-based solar collectors, central water storage, and compartmentalized living spaces. The third place award went to Chris Starr for his Mars Acropolis, which was styled upon the ancient Greek Acropolis. It has a water tower at the top of the structure, a series of greenhouses at the bottom, and living quarters in between. The full list of 227 entries is browse-able on Thingiverse.
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Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition

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  • These design competitions are great for inspiring the creativity, but we, as a species are not motivated enough to colonize another planet. Until that changes, nothing substantial will happen.
    • Similarly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:39PM (#47707089)

      Were we not just told a few months ago by NASA that colonizing Mars would be impossible due to moral issues? I'm too lazy at the moment to go dig this up, be my guest.

      I'm all for this, but don't see anyone actually spending the money required to colonize anything. In a profit driven society where the greater good equates to "my phat wallet" it won't happen. At least not while the majority of money in the world is in the hands of about 2 dozen families.

      • You are to smart for this planet.
        You should stay silent.
        The only chance for you is to ... either stay silent ... or reach the echelons you talked about.
        Otherwise I see bad things aproacjing you ...

        • by s.petry ( 762400 )

          I'm not sure if that is a threat or a movie quote. If it's a threat, I am only frightened by your lack of grammatical skills. The "echelons you talked about" do and the rest of what you state is jibberish. Care to make another attempt in English?

          • Sorry, was meant to be funny, an echelon e.g. in your post would be that: At least not while the majority of money in the world is in the hands of about 2 dozen families. The rich families.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        You're short sighted.
        Who do you think owns the corporations that would make money for making the stuff needed to go other planets?

        You do know that space craft aren't literally made of money, right?

        • by s.petry ( 762400 )

          I'm not short sighted, I'm a realist. There is currently no profit to be had by trying to colonize the moon, Mars, mine Asteroids, or anything else in space. Rumors have said that rare minerals may exist in these places, but this lacks evidence.

          Don't confuse that with claiming it's impossible, just that lacking evidence it's cheaper to sit here and cause trouble to increase wealth (which we see on massive scale) than it is to explore space and find giant diamonds and asteroids full of gold. If we had mo

    • Thank you, that was very motivational.

  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @05:37PM (#47707077) Homepage Journal

    When will we have the capability to send humans to Mars?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Narcocide ( 102829 )

      We have that capability now, technically. We just don't have the capability to get them back safely, or for that matter keep them alive there for very long.

    • We have since decades.
      The question only always was:
      o speed to reach it
      o surviving on it
      o do they return
      o money
      o and: why would we

      Well, I always had said: "why would we?", because I want!

      Sure, it makes more sense to fly in 8 weeks with a vasimir rocket tham using 8 or 15 month with a Saturn V based system.
      But from a rare technology point of view? We can do that since 50 years, /. ers will correct me and point out: minimum since 65 years.

  • Putting aside the logistics of getting a reactor to Mars (along with a myriad of other things that are currently "put aside") what size reactor/electrical powerplant/whatever would you need in order to provide the same protection from cosmic radiation as does the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere?

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      To Clarify...what size would be needed to drive a magnetic fields large/strong enough to provide protection for a small base?

      • That is a great question, though I suspect finding large deposits of easily mined and smelted lead could substitute for a larger reactor. The bigger question is generating enough oxygen, food and clean water for a crew big enough to maintain the reactor.

    • Um - dig a hole in the ground?
  • The craft bringing us there!

  • by Ksevio ( 865461 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @06:00PM (#47707277) Homepage
    Depleted Uranium is very heavy - where are the people going to get enough of it? Shipping it there would be extremely expensive
    • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

      Yeah, this caught my eye as well. :)

      How much fuel does it take to put a kg of DU on Mars? I would bet it's substantial.

      Not only do you have to get it off Earth, You have to slow it down at the end of the trip, unless you want to dig it up and recast it, lol.
      "Shielding Shipped Separately." :)

      Not to mention the fact that a solid foot of DU won't "stop" Cosmics; I see ~4V pulses, ~1 per minute most times on systems that see a 511kev pulse at about 200mV. Dealing with that is an important part of a design, lol.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        How much fuel does it take to put a kg of DU on Mars?

        The same amount that it takes to put a KG of any other payload on Mars.

  • The garden and kitchen are on opposite ends of the dining room?

    Usability fail.

    • Because when they have people over, there would be too much running back and forth between the kitchen and the backyard grill.

      A modular design allows you to design and build modules, and even get them to the site, in parallel to deciding on the best arrangement of the modules.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The design is, kinda nice.
    But the layout is awful.

    The bedrooms should be near each other, with a bathroom separating them. (preferably on the side away from the living area)
    Using this image of it [], switch the 3D print room and utility room around to the other side with the bedroom and bathroom. Literally just translate them over as-is.
    That gives a nice working area on one side, bedrooms and bathroom in one area, entertainment in middle, then the eating space in another.

    Equally, if we are going to go with

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I suspect living arrangements will differ on Mars when you have no proper "outside" to go to. Having the bedrooms far apart may ameliorate the stress of being forced to live in such close proximity to another person for long periods of time.

  • Man can't even manage planet Earth. Let alone Mars. It has no business there until it shapes up over here.
    Meanwhile, robots can do anything there, and elsewhere, and do it more effectively.

    • by aquabat ( 724032 )

      Man can't even manage planet Earth. Let alone Mars. It has no business there until it shapes up over here. Meanwhile, robots can do anything there, and elsewhere, and do it more effectively.

      With respect to not having any business there, I respectfully disagree. I think something like this is just what we need to get our shit together. We've been getting away with lots of unsustainable practices here on Earth, because our ecosystem is big enough to absorb the damage so far. The problem with this is that the consequences are too far away in time or place for us to care. Boiling the frog, and all that.

      Mars, on the other hand, is a pretty unforgiving place. If we can't be self sustaining in a sm

    • If we had paused for conditions in Europe to be perfect before developoing the Americas, every casino on this continent would be sitting here still waiting for its first customer to show up.

  • good ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @06:47PM (#47707665) Journal
    I would lose the Uranium shielding, and just bury the thing instead. We need to use as much local material for construction as possible. As someone else mentioned above, nobody wants to pay to keep a colony going, so once we're there, it's probably a good idea to live as though we're on our own for good. If we want to sustain and expand our colony past the initial setup, we need to do it without Earth sending us stuff regularly. So, houses we can make out of Mars. That being said, I would make a couple of exceptions. First, I would ship some kind of self contained power source, like maybe a modular Thorium reactor, or something like that. Doing big construction projects is power intensive, and solar might not cut it. The second thing I would take would be fabrication tools for any supplies that can't be 3D printed, I guess. I mean, eventually, stuff is going to wear out, and Mars doesn't seem to have much in the way of tradable resources, so we're going to have to make our own stuff. By "stuff we'll have to make ourselves", I'm thinking space suits and mining/refining equipment.
    • by Ksevio ( 865461 )
      The design devotes a whole room to 3D printing, but I agree underground would be better than depleted uranium. Thick layer of martian ground is much easier to get than 2cm thick walls of DU.
      • "The design devotes a whole room to 3D printing, but I agree underground would be better than depleted uranium. Thick layer of martian ground is much easier to get than 2cm thick walls of DU."

        No to mention that it's a toxic metal that weights 19.1 g/cm3 , 68.4% denser than lead, to transport that to another planet with rockets is going to be expensive if not impossible.

        A single sheet of that 2cm thick shield, 1 meter by 1 meter would weigh 382kg, one third of a ton.

        Also it still has 60% of the radioactivity

  • Cute but impractical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ken McE ( 599217 ) <kenmce AT spamcop DOT net> on Tuesday August 19, 2014 @07:39PM (#47707991)

    All of these lovely fantasies have problems. The hex one adds complexity to the construction for no particular reason. The water tower on the roof becomes a single point of failure and will tend to want to freeze up. Caves would be nice, but what are the odds there'll be convenient caves located right where they want to set up camp? All of them would be complicated to build on Earth, never mind by a guy in a spacesuit

    What they actually build will be an extension of our oldest and most mature design school - the square. They'll bring Titanium or Aluminum I-beams and bolt them together. For the sake of discussion lets assume a cube ten meters on each side, maybe an overhang all around the top. They'll bolt cross pieces and panels across the top and pile up regolith on the roof for the first layer of radiation protection.

    Once they have this they'll go underneath and set up pressurized tents (if we can find suitable material for local conditions.) If tents work, they keep them. If tents are problematical they'll start building room sized cubes. The cubes will be essentially the same as the outer shell, but smaller and with caulked joints. As time goes by they'll start linking them. For safety reasons, internal air locks will be common. Water will be stored in flat compartments in the ceiling of each cube or tent as secondary radiation protection. Each room will have its own ceiling tanks so the loss of any one unit won't cripple them.

    I assume they'll have a number of tanks of liquids and gasses - Nitrogen, Oxygen, Water, whatever else they need. Up on top of the regolith layer would be the place to store them. They'll be close to hand but out of the way, and if a tank fails there'll probably be no shrapnel issues. They will also lend a little bit more radiation shielding. If they have excess sewage it will be frozen in blocks and left on the roof for the same reasons.

    The above feature will combine to something that has all the style and grace of a junkyard shack, but hey, it'll be easy to build, can be grown in stages as time allows, and it'll work. My apologies to those fancy design guys...

    • Geodesic domes. Most area covered with the least material and most strength. You would need something to keep in an atmosphere and geodesic domes are the clear solution.

      But seriously, it has to be underground-- Mars is way too cold and has little atmosphere. How can people forget how crazy cold it gets on Mars? Do people not know that our air freezes in their winter? You'd have to insulate that water in the roof and heat it. We have troubles in Antarctica we should work out 1st.

      You are better off waiting u

    • You're probably correct, at least for the prospects of an initial outpost. Except for freezing sewage. I can't imagine they'll ever have excess sewage to freeze. All that water gone to waste. Not to mention valuable nitrogen and readily metabolizable organic material. More likely it will get processed and its constituent parts reused, and fairly quickly. Yes using human waste as feed stock for food plants is a little risky, but the chill and near vacuum conditions allow for industrial processes that c

  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @12:12AM (#47709549) Journal

    I'd like to see a different competition. For the contest, I'll need some acres of cheap desert land. Nevada, I'm looking at you. The site should be selected based on similarity to Mars, as much as practical (e.g., sandy soil, rocks, etc.). It could even be in the dry valleys of Antarctica, although that might be a problem because people might see this as exploiting the pristine environment there.

    Now here's the contest.

    Based on a preliminary judgement process, participants each get temporary use of an acre. They are allowed to visit it exactly ONCE for an hour, and leave behind... a robot.

    The robot's task is prepare the surface as much as possible for human habitation. There will be a mandatory delay in communicating with the robot, to simulate the actual delay communicating with Mars. To prevent cheating, all communications will be routed through the contest organizer's central server.

    The winners will be judged based on how close they came to preparing something that could be quickly converted into a habitation by arriving people.

    A few extra details need to be worked out, such as weight and size limits on the robot. Otherwise somebody might park an old 747 there and claim victory. It also needs to be something that could survive launch and entry. Contest organizers might subject each robot to predetermined G-force and temperature excursions at the start.

    Maybe the contest should be allowed to run for a year or so. I think it'd be interesting.

    Even without the contest, it would be interesting. It's a bit of an expensive hobby and perhaps more practical as a game; but there's nothing like the real thing. It could lead to actual techniques for surface prep.

  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Wednesday August 20, 2014 @10:29AM (#47712139)

    You're on Mars. You need to keep it simple, and keep resource requirements down. So why six walls instead of four? Why complicated join angles? Does the fact that all but the most artsy furniture is _square_, and hence fits best in a square/rectangular space, lost on the designers/judges? Does the fact that Mars dwellers might come from Earth, and hence long for something familiar, not suggest that a square/rectangular design might be better for the mental health of the colony?

    We are not bees. We are human. Mars dwellers will not be 'artists', but people struggling to survive in an alien and hostile environment. Hexagon houses don't make any sense here on Earth, where they are easy to build and maintain. Why in heaven's name would they make sense on Mars?

    You know what would make sense? Frickin' trailer parks of 'portables' like we use in hostile environments here on Earth! Worried about radiation? Put them underground dumbass!

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker