An MIT team's submission is the winning design for this year's Mars City Design competition. Its nature-inspired design concept mimics a forest with tree habitats and underground roots.
The Mars City Design contest is an international competition with the mission of creating a blueprint for creating sustainable Martian cities. This year, the winning design came from MIT researchers whose nature-inspired design can provide shelter for 10,000 members of a colony.
The design called Redwood Forest looks pretty simple at first glance, with a number of dome structures on the surface of Mars. However, the city actually mimics a forest in both structure and function as each dome is actually a tree habitat with structural branches and underground "roots" that serve a number of purposes for its residents.
"Designing a forest also symbolizes the potential for outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape," said Valentina Sumini who led MIT's winning interdisciplinary team.
Each dome can house 50 inhabitants and provide them with open spaces and water-rich environments which protect them from radiation and manage the heat. Underneath each dome is a network of "roots" that connect to each other and serve as the residents' private spaces and provide easy transportation to the other domes in the city. Further, the underground tunnels also protect its inhabitants from radiation, extreme thermal variations, and micrometeorite impacts.
Every tree habitat will collect energy from the sun which will be used to process and transport water for its residents, for hydroponic farms, for the production of rocket fuel and oxygen, and for charging hydrogen fuel cells.
The team proposes to build 200 of the tree habitats which could provide shelter for 10,000 people to not just survive, but thrive on Mars.
"It is not enough to just travel to Mars and survive, now we must develop a way in which we can sustainably live and love on Mars," states Vera Mulyani, founder and CEO, founder, and lead architect of Mars City Design.
Redwood Forest For Earth?
While the design was meant for a future Martian colony, the team states that it can also be useful here on Earth. For instance, vehicles traveling in underground tunnels could help ease congested cities, while building hydroponic farms under cities could lower transportation and land costs, and provide fresh produce to the city's residents.
What's more, the tree-dome habitat design could also inspire the creation of living spaces in harsh environments such as in deserts, in high latitudes, or even underwater.