This is an interdisciplinary project with mechanical engineering, material science, physics, industrial design, architecture, and art students to develop an inflatable plant habitat for Mars. I worked on developing the geometry, functionality, and aesthetics of the structure's exterior skin. Click here for information on this project, which received support and funding from NASA.
Martian Biome, an Inflatable Plant Habitat
Project Viriditas is a concept for an inflatable plant habitat on Mars, based on Martian physics & climate, collapsible architectures, membrane pressure vessel hydroponics, and material science. This closed-loop biome incorporates a holistic design approach to preserve the integrity of Mar's ecosystem, while evaluating viability for human presence.
The intent for the biome was to provide a viability test for sustaining life on Mars and create a monument for human interaction after the experiment has ended. The design is intended to engage the public with a uniquely-shaped habitat as well as function as an experiment in organism viability.
STRUCTURE & DEPLOYMENT
The biome consists of three columns, each containing vertically stacked aeroponic growth systems. Each leg of the tripod contains its own telescoping column, housing all the vital systems and resources. If the systems in one column fail, the experiment continues.
Structural plates expand in size and elevation in response to the size of the various plant species. The vertical system makes use of reduced gravity to aid in a vertical deployment sequence.
The biome would be transported in a flat state, in which the plant growth trays are layered as closely to each other as possible. Once on the surface, the telescoping pole deploys. As the pole telescopes, it pulls the exterior cabling structure into tension, finally locking into place to create a solid structure.
EXTERIOR SKIN SYSTEM
In theory, the skin would have distinct layers: Atomic Oxygen Protective Layer, Multi-Layer Insulation, Restraint Layer, Bladder Assembly, and Inner Line System.
The Atomic Oxygen protective layer would be a thicker outer-layer of Betaglass fabric, the Multi-layer insulation Layer (MLI) would be comprised of Betacloth, and layers of Mylar separated by Dacron, the Micrometeoroid Orbital Debris (MMOD) protection would have Polyurethane foam layer in between each layer of Nexetel, and the Resistant layer/inner layer would have Kevlar, Bladder for redundant layering, Combitherm, and Nomex for fire resistance. All of these materials would help in radiation, protection, and low permeability of the biome.
The skin of Project Viriditas was largely inspired by the work done on the TransHab. Inflatable project.
Mylar Tiles The biome is enclosed in a tessellated skin made of triangle tiles with mylar centers, for heat radiation protection.
Folding Geometries We experimented with folding patterns that would allow the plastic to fold down and deploy in a controlled fashion.
Skin Prototyping We tested two different different ways of joinery, heat welding tabs together and sewing the pieces together. Realistically, the pieces would be joined through NASA's approach for its current inflatables.
Overall Goal Our goal was to make sure that each layer of plant life would be able to access the proper amount of water. A recreation of proper aeroponic systems was necessary.
- Collect subterranean water from Mars
- Have limited misters directed towards a plant layer
- Use a fluid, dynamic system with no tank in our Earth analog
Looking into the Future In future, more advanced, biomes, we would like to expand our scope. Utilizing the Martian water and finding faster, easier ways to access water would be crucial. Continuing with aeroponics would be perfect for full scale mockups. It utilizes less water and allows for more a dynamic habitat.
Aeroponic Systems are becoming more common in modern day farming. Plants being supplied by such a system are as healthy and bountiful as those from normal gardening methods. Aeroponics use less water than traditional methods, our plant design allows for easy watering with a direct path to the roots. This constant humidity benefits the decomposition layer.
The goal of the Project Viriditas outreach program is to bring the experience of the Martian Biome back to Earth. To offer viewers an immersive and engaging experience, we've designed a virtual reality simulation of the Martian biome, brought to life by data from the biome. Every day, the biome sends data back to Earth, which is digitally transposed in an environment that viewers can freely study and explore.
Research Tool while the VR experience was primarily designed as a public-facing service, a suite of measurement and biome management tools have been designed in parallel for use by scientists and researchers. This allows both astronauts in transit and those on Earth to engage with the biome's data in a holistic and contextual research environment.
Psychological Impact By creating a multi-sensory experience housed within the astronauts' helmets, we not only give them a powerful tool for observing and tendering to the biome, but create an immerse space for relaxation and psychological solace. Visual displays mounted in the astronauts visor fill their field of view with imagery of the biome simulation, while on-board speakers an an olfactory dispenser can enhance the experience to each user's preferences.