What is it like to live in Mars? NASA is in the midst of recruiting four volunteers to find out during a year-long simulation at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The selected crew members will move into Mars Dune Alpha, a starchitect-designed habitat touted to be “the highest-fidelity simulated habitat ever constructed” for living on the red planet.
Conceived by the architecture firm BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the model is 1,700 sq ft of habitat designed to allay the mental and physical challenges astronauts may encounter during extended trips to Mars. The ultimate goal, says a spokesperson for BIG’s design team, is to create “a supportive, healthy environment that doesn’t need to sacrifice aesthetics.”
Perhaps the most significant innovation in Mars Dune Alpha is giving occupants a semblance of privacy. Instead of common sleeping quarters, each crew member gets a room that they can customize to their preferences. They also can choose from two full bathrooms on opposite ends of the habitat. The architects say insights from similar long-duration research spaces—such as the International Space Station, submarines, and Antarctic research stations—informed their thinking.
Mars Dune Alpha is equipped with an indoor aquaponic vegetable nursery, a gym, a treatment room, and various areas for lounging and working.