Before you sign up for any mission to Mars, be prepared to say goodbye to the concept of the bedroom as you know it.
On Mars, as in outer space generally, it would be an unimaginable luxury to have a big bed with a thick mattress & a heavy comforter. Given the exorbitant cost of sending things to Mars & the constraints of the cramped habitats we are likely to build, we will require a whole new set of design principles for furniture & interior spaces on the red planet.
Ikea on Mars
With this challenge in mind, a team of designers from IKEA gathered not too long ago in the Utah desert to spend three days in a mock Mars habitat thinking about designing furniture for a space mission (or a”tiny house” here on Earth).
An IKEA team wasted three days at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.IKEA
Inside the two-story, 33-foot-wide cylinder, one the designers, Robert Janson, stated he & his teammates” quickly realized the necessity of privacy.” They also realized that the furniture we are all familiar with tends to be bigger than necessary. “We had these bunk beds that were taking up lots of space the whole day, & the only time we used them was for sleeping,” Janson explained.
“Every object has to have multiple functions — otherwise we simply cannot afford it,” stated Constance Adams, a Houston-based space architect who served as an advisor to the team. So Janson & the others started to think about incorporating beds into the walls like pull-down cots, for example, & how they could use smaller features, like virtual windows showing lifelike video views, to break up the monotony of the environment.
Function comes first
IKEA isn’t alone in imagining what Martian design could appear like. Inspired in part by estimates that sending cargo to Mars will cost more than $2,600 a pound, Renens, Switzerland-based designer Thomas Missé came up with super-thin, stackable, carbon-fiber “Mars chairs.”
The Mars Chair by designer Thomas Miss?.Thomas Missed
Another designer, London-based Christine Lew, created a collection of products like a spacesuit you can shower in & a vacuum-suction bathrobe. These were not intended to be commercial products but rather”speculative” items to get people to think about overlooked comforts of everyday life during long-term space exploration, Lew told the architecture & design magazine Dezeen.
For its part, NASA has asked architectural firms to think about what buildings could appear on Mars. Some of the ideas — submitted to the space agency as part of its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge — appearance like luxury cabins. The first-place winner in the design phase of the challenge, the Mars Ice House, was a four-story igloo-like habitat with a spiral staircase, a mix of private & communal spaces, & rooms with curved walls to create an illusion of more space.
These concepts will not come to fruition unless the tools & materials required for their construction fulfill the strict engineering requirements for space travel.
“It starts & ends with the rocket science,” Adams stated. “It has to be light enough & strong enough to be transported off Earth.”
What’s more, most of the tools & furnishing you pack will have to be useful under the conditions of the two zero-gravity in space & Martian gravity (which is about one-third of Earth’s gravity). The spaceship itself might have to be convertible into habitat walls, tables, chairs, etc. And all of these items would likely also serve multiple functions.
If the function is one key to designing furniture & habitats on Mars, materials are additional. The plastics & synthetic materials found in furniture & other products here on Earth sometimes give off gases that could be dangerous in closed environments, Adams stated. She thinks natural materials like wool, wooden, & leather might be the ultimate materials for interior furnishings.
NASA Details Its Plans for Sending Humans to Mars
To promote positive feelings on Mars, designers will see appearance for ways to help astronauts feel an emotional bond with the furniture & décor inside their habitat. Philipp Süssman, an additional member of the IKEA team, stated people tend to feel more connected to items they build or assemble themselves.
Good design could also help ease the interpersonal conflict that might arise on Mars.
“King Arthur’s roundtable is a brilliant piece of furniture for a group of knights,” Adams stated. “You have to design the common spaces, so there’s an equality of positions.” And, she added, given the high sound levels that might exist in a Mars habitat filed with whirring fans & other machinery, facing one an additional at meals & other gatherings might make things more comfortable by facilitating lip-reading.
Ultimately, Mars-focused designs could go a long way toward making daily life more comfortable in the harsh Martian environment. And the same design ideas that would work on Mars might also help us create better living spaces here on Earth — especially as we face our ever-growing environmental challenges.
As Adams contemplated this avenue of research, she was reminded of Bill Anders, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the famous Earthrise photo: “We came all this way to explore the moon, & the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”