The central premise of any viable Mars settlement is two-fold. First, a permanent habitat must be built with Martian materials. This enabled by a technology known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU). ISRU circumvents the limits of the rocket equation – that every 10 pounds of rocket need 90 pounds of propellant. Importing materials from Earth is so energy intensive and costly that it is simply not viable.
Second, habitats should be completed with life-support systems in place before humans arrive. NASA plans to send machines in advance to harvest the Martian landscape, extracting materials for robotic printers to build our first homes on Mars in anticipation of our arrival.
MARSHA marks a radical departure from previous Martian designs typified by low-lying domes or buried structures. Where structures on earth are designed primarily for gravity and wind, special conditions on Mars point to a structure optimized to handle internal atmospheric pressure and structural stresses: a vertical container with a minimal footprint. MARSHA’s vertical orientation and small footprint also alleviate the need for a construction rover moving on unfamiliar ground.
Instead, MARSHA is constructed with a vertically telescoping arm attached to a stationary rover throughout the 3D printing process. These innovations challenge the conventional image of “space age” domes by focusing on the creation of vertically oriented, human-centric habitats tuned to the demands of a Mars mission.
MARSHA uses a unique dual-shell system to isolate the habitable spaces from the natural expansion and contraction caused by extreme temperature swings on Mars. As a result, the interior is free to be light, airy, highly mass-optimized, and human: a tiny bubble of Earth on a distant world.
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