While scientists believe that once upon a time, it has the right conditions to support life, Mars today is not a very hospitable place.

Humans who would want to venture to the Red Planet will have to deal with extreme temperatures from both ends of the spectrum, lack of breathable air, and radiation that could cause serious harm to the health of future space farers.

There is also the problem of resources. Hauling construction materials from Earth to Mars which, on average, is about 225 million kilometers away, would be far too expensive. Martian architects will have to use resources already available in the extraterrestrial environment.

First City On Mars

That is why future cities on Mars will look vastly different from those found here on Earth. Xavier de Kestelier, head of design technology and innovation at Hassell Studio, predicted that the future habitats on the Red Planet will be constructed less vertically.

"A cave is probably the best typology for living on Mars," he stated in an interview with Inverse.

Hassell Studio, a multidisciplinary firm, participated in last year's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition to build 3D-printed habitat for future manned space exploration held by NASA and Bradley University. The contestants had to come up with ideas that will address the problems that will arise once man arrives on Mars, including the harsh conditions of the planet and using local materials for construction of habitats.

Hassell Studio's entry, which was shortlisted in the competition, showed living pods shrouded by an external shell rising from the ground. The habitats looked like caves, which are dissimilar to the glass domes that Dubai envisioned in a concept released in 2017.

Although they look cool, de Kestelier commented that huge glass domes on Mars or on the Moon would not be ideal. Glass domes cities will not be able to protect astronauts from radiation.

"On Mars there are similar environmental factors to Earth, the only difference being that they are more extreme," he explained. "For example, on Earth we would need protect interior spaces from too much direct sunlight. One way to do that would be by shading the façade with louvres. On Mars we would also need to protect us from direct sunlight, the big difference being that on Mars, the Sun will expose you to high levels of radioactive gamma radiation as there isn't a magnetic field to protect us."

Hassell Studio's idea of a Martian habitat involved an external shell made of regolith. It had to be built by autonomous robots to provide protection to the arriving astronauts.

Once the humans arrive, they would construct the interior: a series of inflatable pods where they would live and work. There is also a place for the astronauts to socialize and look out to other pods.

Conquering Mars

Currently, there is a renewed interest to send human astronauts and eventually establish a human settlement on Mars. NASA is planning to launch a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s. Elon Musk said that SpaceX could build a sustainable colony by 2050. Dubai gave itself 98 years to construct a sci-fi looking glass dome city on the surface of Mars.

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