Space

National Geographic looks at life on Mars with London model home

National Geographic looks at l...
New Atlas took a trip to Mars (OK, Greenwich) to find out what life might be like
New Atlas took a trip to Mars (OK, Greenwich) to find out what life might be like
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National Geographic's Mars show home in Greenwich
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National Geographic's Mars show home in Greenwich
Visitors will be able to see the show home between November 10 and 16
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Visitors will be able to see the show home between November 10 and 16
The show home suggests Mars homes would be built of martian-soil bricks and recycled spacecraft parts
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The show home suggests Mars homes would be built of martian-soil bricks and recycled spacecraft parts
The show home uses a 'double airlock' recycled from a spacecraft
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The show home uses a 'double airlock' recycled from a spacecraft
A study into how people feel about life on Mars bore these results
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A study into how people feel about life on Mars bore these results
The Mars show home was designed by National Geographic in conjunction with Stephen Petranek and Royal Greenwich Observatory astronomers
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The Mars show home was designed by National Geographic in conjunction with Stephen Petranek and Royal Greenwich Observatory astronomers
The show home has been designed to look as real as possible
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The show home has been designed to look as real as possible
Visitors can take a look at the show home through a glass cutaway
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Visitors can take a look at the show home through a glass cutaway
New Atlas took a trip to Mars (OK, Greenwich) to find out what life might be like
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New Atlas took a trip to Mars (OK, Greenwich) to find out what life might be like
Big windows aren't an option on Mars, but clever skylights let a bit of light into the show home
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Big windows aren't an option on Mars, but clever skylights let a bit of light into the show home
The Mars show home has been designed to preview the type of home astronauts might live in 
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The Mars show home has been designed to preview the type of home astronauts might live in 
National Geographic is trying to drum up some interest in its upcoming TV series about life on Mars
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National Geographic is trying to drum up some interest in its upcoming TV series about life on Mars
A daytime bed provides a place to relax for astronauts
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A daytime bed provides a place to relax for astronauts
There mightn't be room for big airlock parts, but there is room for hot sauce on the ship to Mars
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There mightn't be room for big airlock parts, but there is room for hot sauce on the ship to Mars
The workspace in the Mars show home looks very similar to a regular Earth desk
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The workspace in the Mars show home looks very similar to a regular Earth desk
Various knick-knacks are scattered around the shelves of the Mars show home
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Various knick-knacks are scattered around the shelves of the Mars show home
Ignore the footprints – there is no doormat in the Mars show home
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Ignore the footprints – there is no doormat in the Mars show home
Martian apparel can still be fashionable  if the jacket hanging in the Mars show home is anything to by
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Martian apparel can still be fashionable  if the jacket hanging in the Mars show home is anything to by

The idea of humans living on another planet was once the preserve of science-fiction writers, but today it doesn't seem so crazy. SpaceX and NASA are both planning manned missions to Mars, and human settlement is becoming a very real possibility. So, what would life actually be like on the Red Planet? New Atlas took a trip to the Greenwich Royal Observatory, where National Geographic has set up a model Mars home, to find out.

The National Geographic exhibition was designed in tandem with astronomers from the Royal Greenwich Observatory and Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars. It might be a compact display, but the design and materials chosen are rooted in reality. That means the materials mentioned should all be able to shield humans from the inhospitable environment on Mars, and take the tricky economics of space travel into account.

With those tricky economics in mind, the dome-shaped exterior is wrought in bricks made from martian soil, and the double airlock has been recycled from the spacecraft used to get to Mars. The team also suggests spacecraft air-scrubbing systems could be recycled, to minimize the amount of extra cargo that needs to be carried from Earth to Mars.

The show home suggests Mars homes would be built of martian-soil bricks and recycled spacecraft parts
The show home suggests Mars homes would be built of martian-soil bricks and recycled spacecraft parts

"We've got this amazing igloo-like construction, it's made of bricks fused from martian soil," says Dr. Martin Kukula, Royal Observatory Greenwich Public Astronomer. "The idea there is to use as much local resource as possible so we don't have to take much stuff with us. Of course, getting to Mars is a very long trip and very expensive, so we take as little as possible."

"Inside we are growing our own food, with plants we are growing in martian soil. But also it's designed to be a pleasant environment for the astronauts," he says. "This could be a three-year round trip with six months there, six months back and two years on the martian surface, so you want the astronauts to have a pleasant working environment as well as a safe one."

Underneath the red-brick skin, the show home is kitted out with everything astronauts could possibly need for a comfortable two-year mission. In the above-ground area, there's a television and daytime bed for unwinding, along with necessities like a 3D printer. Rather than needing to wait six months for new tools and equipment to arrive from Earth, the printer gives astronauts the ability to simply make their own.

A daytime bed provides a place to relax for astronauts
A daytime bed provides a place to relax for astronauts

The real action happens underground – home to sleeping quarters, storage and crucial oxygen-generating machinery. Rather than living in isolation, the team behind the home say inhabitants would be part of a wider colony, connected by a network of underground tunnels.

Visitors will be able to see the National Geographic show home between November 10 and 16 at the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London. A documentary-drama directed by Ron Howard will also air on the National Geographic channel this weekend. Set in 2033, it tells the story of the first manned mission to Mars through a combination of real interviews and fictional storylines.

Stephen Petranek explains the rationale behind the design of the model home to New Atlas in the video below.

Life on Mars

6 comments
Tom Lee Mullins
I think that is really nice looking. Intended for Mars but could be used on Earth? I think that would make for a great little cottage for the beach.
Buellrider
Mars would be a perfect place for those convicted of a crime that would get a one way trip to Mars instead of the death penalty. Would any sane person actually volunteer and then actually go to Mars knowing that they'd never ever see blue skies and the beautiful lush verdant beauty of earth ever again? Or a river or a lake ever again? Or all the myriad forms of life that are abundant everywhere you look. Anybody willing to go has a major screw loose and it is a perfect place to send them so they cannot pass on their genes here on our beautiful planet Earth.
Bob Flint
I'm I missing something? you can create oxygen, & water from the Martian atmosphere, and possibly the soil and ice below it. What is the power coming from large space based solar collectors, or on Mars with the limited daylight and power almost half that of earth?
keith14
Who in there right mind would want to go to Mars? It has nothing that interests us Earthlings. We should take doctor Robert Ballards advice and spend on exploration of the worlds Oceans as a source of populating them in the future. If my memory serves me well I recall Doctor Bollard mentioning that the cost of taking one kilo of material into space would be 10's of thousands of American $ Therefore one of these beach homes materials transported into space could cost a couple of million $ Very expensive real estate!! A dumb Idea if you ask me!
MattII
@keith14, living underwater is not cheap, Withstanding the pressure at a mere 10m down is as difficult as living in vacuum, only in the opposite direction. Also the cost is down to ~$3,500/kg with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, which still isn't cheap, but is a hell of a lot better than the $10,000+/kg of more conventional rockets.
Lbrewer42
National Geographic lost my respect as anything but a propaganda machine quite some time ago. I used to love it as a kid when not every single article they wrote had somehow be tied back in to their main themes of promoting global warming and evolution. They were even told before they did their famous article of dinosaurs becoming birds, that the Asian fossils they based their articles on (that has now become accepted as factual almost everywhere) were fabricated. Its a repeat of the old Piltdown Man scam, and yet NG decided to publish anyway. Sometime take a highlighter and see how many times the word evolution or global warming are mentioned in just one magazine article. Its ridiculus. Another theme they love is to call every living thing except man (who they indoctrinate readers with as being so evil) endangered. It is sad such a once-great magazine is nothing but political now.