Colonising the Red Planet

Project

The project addresses the possibility of a colonization of the red planet.

The project develops from a vision: a rocket full of people that slowly lands on the remote surface of a still unexplored celestial body, laying the foundations for a future and primordial settlement. The starting point was the prediction made by the entrepreneur Elon Musk on a possible Martian colonization in the year 2024. After analyzing various urban structures starting from the Neolithic age and arriving to the present days, several hypotheses were taken into consideration, which led to a repeatable matrix in infinite space trough an aggregative scheme born from the analysis of different types. The first block that will be built after the landing of the rockets will be the Martian research station, built for a crew of ten people and divided into three basic functions: residential, scientific and agricultural. Each of these functions is autonomous and connected to the others by means of equilibrium chambers. All these structures are made up of 3D pre-printed block using the materials of the place such as the regolith rock.

Interview

What prompted the project?

This study, based on a possible colonization of the red planet, was born from a vision: a rocket full of people that slowly lands on the remote surface of a still unexplored celestial body, laying the foundations for a future and primordial settlement. SpaceX, the US aerospace company founded in 2002 by the South Afrigan entrepreneur Elon Musk, has as its fundamental objective to create technologies to reduce the costs of access to space and allow the colonization of Mars in 2024, so based on these theories I started focusing on the arrangement that a future city could have on the Martian planet.

What questions does the project raise and which does it answer?

The main target of the project was to create a matrix (composed by housing laboratories and other activities) that could be repeated endlessly in an indefinite space. To achieve this goal I’ve analyzed various urban structures starting from the Ancient Greece to the present days. an aspect that has influenced me a lot was the foundation ceremony of the cities of ancient Greece that takes place in two stages: first, the founder, completed the propitiatory and purification rites, digs a small circular ditch, in which throws some clods of earth of the city of origin. Therefore, around the urban hearth, the perimeter of the city is traced with a square, as the house is built around the home. In a similar way, I started thinking about several hypotheses with the same starting point: the landing of a first rocket on the extraterrestrial soil as if to represent the founder act of a future city. The aggregative scheme of the housing modules was the result of three different types: the first sees the development of a multi-centered city where a central space (which will be used as a large greenhouse) is connected to surrounding houses. In the second hypothesis the city would develop linearly, guaranteeing easy expansion along a main axis. The third option sees a grid system that would guarantee various access routes to the same building and a higher density compared to the other two cases.

Could you please expand on the different structures researched. What were the individual case studies? Why were these chosen? How and to what extent did they inform the project?

The single case study was chosen base on its functionality, consistency of shapes with the rest of the base, to respond in the best way to the pressurization’s needs and to create a different environments from those we’re used to see on Earth. I’ve adopted a circular plan because in this way the dormitories for scientists could be arranged around a large corridor, guaranteeing a large common area in the center with a relax and cooking areas. A fundamental factor in my opinion was to separate the personal environment from the work environment, to ensure psychological well-being and the socialization of the crew, and for this reason i decided to place the laboratories and first aid in another building. So, the first block that was designed and that will be built after the landing of the rockets will be the Martian research station, built for a crew of ten people and divided into three basic functions: residential, scientific and agricultural. Each of these functions is autonomous and connected to the others by means of equilibrium chambers. Near the station there is also a radio tower equipped with an antennas to communicate with the Earth, radar, lighting and a device that can measure the daily atmospheric composition.

How relevant are structure constructed within inhospitable environments as that of Antarctica for projecting inhabitation on Mars?

Observing the construction of the most extreme terrestrial climates undoubtedly helps to understand what the approach to a Martian construction could be. If we take for example the laboratories built in recent years in Antartica, we can see how they’re all easily assembled and disassembled and how the spaces for recreation and work are divided so as not to drive people crazy during long stays.

What do you see as the biggest issues of constructing in such a place? How would one start to tackle the logistics of a condition of that of Mars?

The main problems of building on Mars derive from his environmental and climate context, especially from the atmospheric composition: this contains elements that are not absolutely breathable by man, so from here comes the need to create adequately pressurized structures. The atmosphere has also a low pressure and this causes enormous fluctuations in maximum temperature reaches up to 30 °C and the minimum -120 ° C near the poles, for this reason we must also use highly insulating materials.To solve all these problems we need to adopt a simple and relatively fast construction system like that of 3D printing: many of the construction materials we have on earth can be manufactured by machines also on Mars. The Martian regolith, for example, is constituted by every element necessary to produce every type of concrete. The surface of the planet is also rich of metal ores, rock containing a large amount of metal components, and we can even produce glass fiber from the Martian sand and other elements. In the end the technology chosen for the project was the “Contour crafting”, which uses computer-controlled processes to build structures.

To what extent do you see this as a possible reality in 2024? What are the principal agents which will make this future possible?

What makes me very hopeful of this prevision to land Mars in 2024 is the enormous development that has characterized SpaceX in recent years and the healthy madness of its boss. In the last year it also been designed and built a rocket, called BFR, capable of transporting a crew of hundreds of people and this would constitute the first Mars settlement, so the assumptions seems really good to me!

What is your most important tool as an architect? .

I think that a fundamental thing for an architect is to always face new tasks and challenges that can expand our understanding of space and aesthetics. To do this I believe it’s very important to always be curious and find details that can inspire us in everyday life

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