This article originally appeared on Motherboard.
One day, we will leave this planet and find a new home on another space rock. And when we make the move, we’ll need new dwellings to fit the décor of our galactic habitat—and protect us from radiation and flying meteors and suffocation and all that stuff.
So long as the dream of interplanetary emigration is still a while off, architects of our future space homes don’t have to worry too much about those kind of practicalities. Yet. Welcome to the far-out world of speculative space architecture.
The Comet Runner
The Comet Runner. Image: Clouds AO
New York-based architects Clouds Architecture Office put together a series of concept images for a “comet runner”—a space station that would effectively “hitch a ride” on a comet while using its raw materials to convert into in-flight resources. Design site Dezeen explains that the concept was inspired by Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the target comet of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission.
The Comet Runner station would include a greenhouse, a lab, a processing plant, and storage tanks, and equipment onboard would turn dust from the comet into 3D-printable material to build temporary homes on the rocky surface.
3D-Printed Lunar Home
3D printing is a popular tool in our imagined space bases. Working with ESA, UK architects Foster + Partners have developed a concept for lunar homes made of inflated domes covered in 3D-printed Moon dust. In their hypothetical mission, the architects posit a lunar base in the near-perpetual sunlight of the Moon’s south pole that would be built by roving 3D printer robots. The resulting dwelling even includes that contemporary architectural staple: a skylight.
Other Moon Structures
Lunar buildings are a popular theme for space-oriented architects, perhaps because the fact that we’ve actually put humans on the Moon gives these conceptual designs some degree of plausibility. There are designs for inflatable habitats, lunar mining facilities, and who could forget the feat of otherworldly engineering imagination that brought us the Luna Ring, a plan to wrap the Moon in solar panels to power the Earth?
German-based firm ZA Architects proposed this organic-looking Mars cave. The base would be excavated under the Red Planet’s surface by robots drilling around supportive pillars. Not unlike the 3D-printed lunar home, the idea is that it would make use of local materials, in this case basalt. “Basalt is good material to make a protectional cave on, to produce insulation, and basalt roving, which is stronger than steel,” the architects write, adding that Martian soil might even be suitable for growing asparagus.
Design features include some kind of spiderweb-type netting “that will be used as spaces and construction to hold domestic and technical facilities.”
Floating Venus Habitat
Space agencies themselves aren’t immune from a little speculative design work, as this speculative image of a floating habitat around Venus attests. NASA researchers came up with this concept ship, which acts as vehicle and temporary home for a couple of astronauts as they explore the cloud-shrouded planet. This one might look particularly fantastical, but as Motherboard’s Daniel Oberhaus and Alex Pasternack write, the Venusian dream might actually have a lot going for it.