NASA Scientists have determined that a massive ice reservoir on Mars could be used as a basis for the “Mars Ice Home” currently in development.
Kevin Kempton of Langley Research Center, and Ice Home principal investigator, told Space.com that the inflatable domecile "is more than just a habitat, since what we really need is a new home on Mars," adding that "Our team is confident Ice Home is currently the best solution out there for an early Mars outpost."
Kempton explained that the Ice Home would be a functional workspace where activities central to spending long periods of time on the planet can be carried out. He added that the structure is cost-effective, as it would use planetary resources instead of having them sent from Earth.
Another benefit of ice is that it functions as a barrier to cosmic rays, which could be harmful to humans spending extended periods of time on a planet with minimal protective atmosphere.
It was in November that a University of Texas research team discovered an ice deposit in the Utopia Planitia region of Mars that is the size of New Mexico, containing as much water as Lake Superior.
In a February 2015 interview Kempton said, "When we go to Mars, we will stay there for a long time…We will need a place to service the robotic equipment that will be out there working for us in
very difficult environment.
He pointed out that repairing a pressure suit on the surface of Mars poses issues, but the spacious pressurized environment of the Ice Home remedies that. "Doing work while wearing pressurized gloves is a lot like wearing clown gloves, and simple things are hard to do and your hands get tired real quickly," he said.
"Many of the 3D-printed structures made from regolith look great, but they would not hold pressure very well," Kempton said. "Mars is close to vacuum, and the required internal pressure loads will literally blow these things up without a heavy restraint layer. You will not be able to get around the fact that, on Mars, you will be living in a pressure vessel, and the shapes they take [are] pretty limiting for designers."
The current design for the Ice Home can accommodate four crew members and would include a work area, a logistics area, a sleep area and a kitchen.