Building on Mars

One of my favorite games is Surviving Mars, published by Paradox Interactive. In it, you control the first colonists to Mars. As you can imagine there are countless challenges and hardships that you have to overcome. In a moment’s notice all of your hard work can disappear with one dust devil or meteor.

My humble little colony

My humble little colony

While many of the resources sound impressive and would fit into a ‘space survival’ game (such as water, Oxygen, food), the resource I was most surprised to see was concrete. Concrete? Really? What makes it such an essential resource to have if we are to live on the red planet?

Imagine you were moving across the country. What do you take with you? Certainly everything that couldn’t be replaced (photos, pets, gifts), clothes, maybe some snacks along the way. But you wouldn’t move your entire house, right? Even moving all of the furniture in the house is minimal compared to the cost of transporting an entire building!

Building on Mars is the same problem, just exaggerated. Costs are astronomical to transport anything, so any material we can use there means we have more room in our space shuttle to transport what is impossible or extremely hard to find on Mars (plants, robots, people). Concrete, being essentially just rocks and water, will be easy enough to make now that we have discovered water on Mars.

A design that isn’t in the game, but won a recent award by NASA, is a 3D printed structure…out of ICE!

While concrete would be great for all areas, there would be appeal to use ice for more ‘livability’ (you can hardly use concrete as a window) in polar regions. The basic idea is that ice is strong enough to provide structure, while also transparent to let light through. It would also block radiation by having a double layer.

While I personally would never want to live in Mars, I’m excited to see how architects play their role in living on the red planet!