Designing the interior of Mars habitats

It’s only a matter of time before we see humans living on Mars, but who’s going to design what’s needed up there?

Concept art of an astronaut on Mars.

Mars habitats need to be designed in a way that promote astronauts’ psychological health.

Jennifer Lane is a PhD architecture candidate researching the optimal interior design for Mars habitats, so that when we eventually send humans to live on Mars, they have access to spaces that promote their mental and emotional health.

“When people have lived in Mars and Antarctica simulation environments, they have had a lot of psychological problems, things like sensory deprivation, monotony and feelings of confinement,” Lane says.

“For example, one simulation had a second level, and a lot of the people who lived there said they felt like they were being watched, and that was an uncomfortable experience for them.

“These problems can be ameliorated by using lighting, colour, scale, material and volumetric qualities of the habitat, and there’s actually a lot of existing literature on these concepts.”

Lane is only six months into her PhD, but she has already examined several environments that will inform her design principles, including Antarctic stations, the International Space Station, the HI-Seas Mars simulation in Hawaii, as well as Russia’s Mars 500 project.

Jennifer Lane.

Jennifer Lane’s PhD has enabled her to combine her passion for interior design and interest in space travel.

She hopes that her research can be used by industrial designers, engineers and psychologists to ensure optimal design principles are not only applied to special habitats like Mars, but also ones on Earth.

“This research could be applied to any environment where humans are going to be isolated and confined, so Mars is the one that I’m looking at, but it could really be applicable to the actual spaceships that are getting people there, as well as the Moon, Antarctic bases, submarines, remote military bases, and oil rigs. Even fly in-fly out workers have said that a lot of the research is applicable to them, too.”

Lane is being mentored by Mars One candidate Josh Richards and says he provides unique insight into what it could be like to live on Mars, although they don’t always agree on the specifics.

“Josh believes that Mars habitats will be quiet, whereas I think they will have a lot of noise due to the systems that will be constantly running to keep the astronauts alive.”

Lane says the mystery of Mars is what makes her research all the more fascinating.

“The entire concept of getting humans to Mars is so dynamic and constantly changing, so there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.

“Nobody really knows exactly what it’s going to be like for the first people who travel there but, for me, that’s part of the fun and interest in the topic.”

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