#61 | arc09 – Talking about the Mars ICE house

Hi, I am going to be mad with this theory and project.

I completely forget the 3D print challenge recently (2 years ago) organized by the NASA to build a concept of a habitat on Mars… It is NOT okay, come on, I don’t want to built again the wheel it is REALLY not what I want. However, the project created by the team SEArch and Clouds architecture office is super interesting because it indirectly validates a great part of my previous thoughts process. I am mitigated between frustration and excitement ( a bit angry with myself and my arrogance).
In fact, all I can do right now is to know how to improve even more the Ice house habitat over time… And at this point, it will only be “hard sciences”. I am not pretending to be able to make a great improvement, but I can try to imagine urban planing patterns or other things.


Mars Ice House

The Ice House project is just literally awesome. one year ago, I’ve just seen the news on a site web but have never paid attention to details. Now, I’m aware that this habitat is just amazingly well build and imagined. The Mars Ice House is a project developed by the Clouds Architecture Office with several consultants (including engineers, psychologist, etc), 8 team members (who has worked on different kinds of conceptual/alternative architecture).

In 2015, the NASA launched a competition for a 3D printing habitat on Mars. The winner uses the concept of “follow the water” approach. Since scientists proved a few years ago that Mars got water and ice under its surface, the habitat uses that primary “material” to print the outer shells of the habitat outside the arrival rocket. Ice is also used for the protection against cosmic rays that can be a big issue for DNA since the particles are like nanobombs for the bonds between the atoms.

The project is located at Alba Mars in Mars’ northern hemisphere, and the location was chosen because of the possibility to reach quickly the ice under a layer of martian regolith (martian rock agregates soil). The Mars Ice House use the concept of “a between space” inside the first 5cm ice shell to create an intermediary volume using for isolation from the external temperature. The outer shell of the structure is used like a protective shell and the shape of the dome is like a Fresnel lens that can absorb a lot of light and can decompose into different colors and making a color-therapy for the inside. The advantage to make the shell with ice is to be able to connect the crewmembers with the environment and to be able to synchronize their biological clock (one of the big issue that can bring sleep and mental disorders, c.f |arc0x articles). The overall system is working based on four ECLSS (environment control and life support system, I am not knowing the details).

Plants grown on the inside of the second shell, are able to produce a bit oxygen inside the habitat in addition to the ECLSS. The temperature inside is about 20°c so it is really cozy in there, with the plants and, the ice material that can give a “transparency” to the outside. Plus, the shape is less thick on the top of the structure, so ETFE (Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene, a thermo-plastic stuff I am not chemist so I don’t really know the detail though) is used to make wide glass to be able to frame a view to the outside (inside the glass, some “anti-cosmic ray” gas).

The habitat is structured in three floors based on the arrival cylindrical rocket that will reach Mars (by the way, I understand why the simulation has always this shape and not another one: the diameter of the rocket didn’t exceed 11,9 m (for the example, Saturn V from the Apollo 11 mission has a 10 m diameter cylindar, and the Falcon Heavy built by Space X got an 11,9 m diameter). That explains why the cylinder was chosen by default and not a cubic shape.
Also, the three floors have different functions: the ground floor is used like a vestibule and airlock and the first story got a library, a lab, a sport room/hygiene area and a “restroom” that connect the three first ones. On the second story, there are bedrooms and kitchen/dining room and finally, the living room is also a belvedere and got a view to the outside thanks to the ETFE glasses.


Source: http://www.marsicehouse.com/

fig.01 – Ground floor of the Mars Ice Habitat (source: http://www.marsicehouse.com/)
1A. Airlock Vestibule
1B. Entry Level, Rover Connection
1C. Intermediate Containment Zone
fig.02 – First story of the Mars Ice Habitat (source: http://www.marsicehouse.com/)
2A. Exercise / Medical Support (60 SF)
2B. Lab (60 SF)
2C. Library / Small Room (60 SF)
2D. Hygiene Area One
2E. Greenhouse
2F. Intermediate Containment Zone
fig.03 – Second story of the Mars Ice Habitat (source: http://www.marsicehouse.com/)
3A. Crew (100 SF)
3B. Hygiene Area Two
3C. Greenhouse
3D. Intermediate Containment Zone
fig.04 – Last story of the Mars Ice Habitat.  (source: http://www.marsicehouse.com/)
4A. Wardroom/Gallery (120 SF)
4B. Food Prep
4C. Greenhouse
4D. Intermediate Containment Zone

Other materials

That project is really outstanding and with only a master thesis, it will be really hard for me to do better. With only one criterium that is “light”/”chronobiology”, I can barely reach the same conclusions for this project. However, I think it is possible to think further and imagine the urban planning that can possibly help for later if a city will be built on Mars. I still don’t know exactly how I can make it but let’s try different stuff.

Before being frustrated by the Mars Ice House project ((not) thank you guys), I’ve seen some project from Chuck Hoberman. He is an engineer but also an artist and architect, he is known to have developed the Hoberman sphere which is a mechanical sphere system that can grow big and retract itself depending on the strength applied on the structure. There are a lot of types of Hoberman sphere like an arch structure developed at Salt Lake City or even a retractable dome.

I’ve also looked for the Zome structure, a structure that uses natural spiral curves to build a geodesic dome with low-tech materials. I’ve not drawn every yet because I’m still looking forward some utility, but the cell structures can be used to connect two or three Zomes together and make a group. It can be useful if we imagine the shape of the habitat on Mars, however, the questions are: “does it also work like a Fresnel lens?” and “is it easy to print it with ice?”…

fig.05 – An example of a zome shape structure on Sketchup.

At the same time, I’ve practiced a bit with the perspective with 360° sketch. I hope to use this method to make a visualization of my project, once I’ll be able to master the skill without using 3D.

fig.06 – A equirectangular grid development of a panoramic 360° sketch practice.

What did I learn?

  • Different “best choices” in-situ localization for a Mars habitat.
  • Mars Ice habitat functions and correlation with my project.
  • Why the ~10 m diameter is the limit for the cylinder shape of the lunar/mars simulation base.
  • The utility of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene.
  • Always draw the ground first when drawing in 360° (making a reference system)
  • Layers in 360° is better to be used after a save on a different .jpg for modifications.
  • The colors are better used in 2D after the sketch is done in the 3D panoramic.
  • Dying in despair and crying internally like a baby with anger, frustration, and excitement…

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