Will we build astronaut igloos on Mars?

NASA has identified a surprisingly basic
building material for housing astronauts
on Mars: ice. There is thought to be a
giant slab of frozen water only a few
meters below the Martian surface, spanning
an area larger than New Mexico.
NASA researchers, working in collaboration
with two space architectural
firms, believe this ice could potentially
be mined and used to make igloo-like
homes for astronauts. There would be
no need to transport large quantities of
building materials and equipment from
Earth, and the hydrogen-rich ice would
shield the Martian explorers from harmful
cosmic rays. The “Mars Ice Home”
would consist of a large inflatable dome,
surrounded by an icy outer shell. A
layer of carbon dioxide between the two
would provide insulation from the chilly
temperatures outside, keeping the living
and working quarters at a comfortable
72 degrees Fahrenheit. Construction
would take as long as 400 days, but that
work could be done by robots before the
astronauts’ arrival. The Ice Home could
be larger than a building made from traditional
materials, and could be deflated
and relocated if required. Another benefit,
notes NASA’s Kevin Kempton, stems from
the translucent qualities of ice. “Some
outside daylight could pass through,” he
tells Space.com, “and make it feel like
you’re in a home and not a cave.”

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