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Ice Homes the Future of Housing in Mars, NASA Reveals

Jan 02, 2017 08:28 AM EST

NASA researchers appear to already have a lot of problems to face if they want astronauts to set foot on Mars. However, one of the biggest challenges is where these early "pioneers" will be sleeping.

Luckily, a day of brainstorming allowed engineers to arrive at a solution, and it appears Ice Homes are the future of Mars housing.

In a nutshell, this means making inflatable domes covered in ice for astronauts to live and work in. This provides them with protection from extreme temperatures and high-energy radiation.

According to Science Alert, systems engineer Kevin Vipavetz from NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia said the idea came after hours of converging different design aspects.

Though the name invokes igloos, it's not far off. It's an inflatable tube-like device that, when inflated fully, is covered with a thick sheet of protective ice. Science Alert notes that the Mars Ice Home design has a lot of advantages that make it an appealing concept. It's lightweight and can be transported and deployed by simple robots. It can be even filled with water before the crew arrives.

It will be converging materials extracted from Mars and because water in the Ice Home can be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle, it can double as a storage tank for the next crew.

According to Science Alert, the major goal of the concept is to protect astronauts from high-energy radiation like cosmic rays that penetrate through Martian atmosphere. These can damage cells and raise the risk of health concerns like cancer and acute radiation sickness.

However, ice is hydrogen-rich and can act as a shield from these rays. That makes it a great cover from preventing rays from smacking into the astronauts.

The materials that make up the Ice Home can withstand many years of use in the harsh Martian environment. It would be super light compared to other settlements that involve constructing buildings here and then sending them off to the red planet.

Another good way for humans to survive on Mars is to burrow underground, which offers the best protection against the surface. However, while waiting for this opportunity, the team may think the ice dome is a good first solution.

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