Mars Habitats Might Be Inflatable Ice Donuts
NASA Langley's newest round of design troubleshooting for life on Mars has come up with some intriguing design solutions. With the extreme cold, unbreathable atmosphere, and rainbow of radiation types, astronauts landing and living on the red planet will have to be well protected as soon as they arrive.
The Mars Ice Home design aims to solve all of these problems with a couple startlingly simple principles. It's based around a torus (or donut) shape and a thick outer shell filled with water ice, which provides protection from both thermal extremes and high energy radiation. This design is lightweight and can be erected by robots before the arrival of the crew, even more viable now that Mars is known to have extensive ice deposits.
The ideal structures for Martian survival would be underground, but at this point that would be impractical. If not using a prebuilt or inflated above ground option, heavy equipment for drilling and underground construction would have to be deployed and used before the astronauts arrive. Expensive in both fuel and complexity.
In this version, the lightweight skins can be made from easily shipped materials that are still durable enough to weather years of use. The water inside can even be repurposed as fuel for departure.
The team anticipates "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," as researcher Sheila Ann Thibeault explains. You hear that Damon? Your Mars storm is totally not canon.