According to some of the brightest young minds, this could be our look into future life on Mars.
Mars City Designs, an “innovative platform for creating cities on Mars,” sponsors annual competitions that challenge competitors to come up with their vision of what a future populated village or town of Mars will resemble. The first place winners in the architecture category of this year’s contest went to a team made up of nine MIT students with a stunning design: Redwood Forest, a tree-lined futuristic concept that impressed everyone in attendance.
The Forest is essentially a series of protective domes that are connected by a detailed system of tunnels. What’s more, up to 10,000 people can be housed within the combined structure, although 50 people would reside safely and comfortably in the smaller habitat structures. The structures would also provide a shield “from cosmic radiation, micrometeorite impacts, and extreme thermal variations.” It is clear from the smart designs that function and form were equally weighed and considered throughout the project.
Team co-leader and MIT postdoctoral student Valentina Sumini explains further about the concept:
"On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith or soil, and Sun to support life," adding about the ecological vision, "Designing a forest also symbolizes the potential for outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape. Each tree habitat incorporates a branching structural system and an inflated membrane enclosure, anchored by tunneling roots."
Another important factor in the competition is the extent to which the design plan will utilize existing resources on the red planet. George Lordos, a doctoral student who was part of the team, explains just how the team took this vital element into consideration:
"Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the Sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment. Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens...Solar panels produce energy to split the stored water for the production of rocket fuel, oxygen, and for charging hydrogen fuel cells, which are necessary to power long-range vehicles as well as provide backup energy storage in case of dust storms."
As data collected from countless space missions over the years has revealed, Mars is a rocky planet with extremely harsh conditions, in comparison to the planet Earth. Though the climate systems are relatively the same, two important issues remain:
First is that there's still little known in terms of mapping out the cycle of the systems (for instance, massive dust storms that encompass the entire planet appear with a truly unpredictable irregularity). The second issue is that more work is needed to understand the evolution of the planet (was there any past resemblance to our planet?) in order to make clear predictions about its ability to both sustain life and offer refuge to future visitors from our planet.
The critical issue, then, becomes fundamentally providing adequate protection against the harsh elements, an idea which the team at MIT has considered thoroughly. In light of the ideas put forth by Elon Musk and others in various spheres of influence towards the aggressive goal of putting people on the planet Mars in the next five years, this team is truly rising to the occasion.