How to design human homes for alien planets

What will our Martian homes look like?

A Mars habitat.
(Image credit: AI SpaceFactory)

The first humans to set foot on Mars will be greeted by an unfamiliar and unfriendly climate: dust storms, freezing temperatures, and intense radiation will bombard their bodies the moment they descend on the planet's surface. To survive in this hostile landscape, settlers will need man-made habitats that can support human life by mimicking conditions on Earth. But as architects and engineers aim to devise space structures that can stand up to a hazardous external environment, they also face an equally vexing problem: How do they use design to make astronauts feel relaxed and at home in an otherwise alien world?

With SpaceX striving to send a crew to Mars in 2024, and NASA planning to follow suit in the 2030s, the race to design Martian homes is well underway. But no one knows how Mars-bound travelers will cope as the only place they've ever called home — Earth — fades from sight. Homesickness and depression could set in quickly, says Nick Kanas, a psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied psychological problems in astronauts for NASA. This poses a challenge. After all, crew wellbeing is as critical to a mission's success as functioning equipment.

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