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The First Mars Homes Could Look Like Red Space Igloos

National Geographic's new docu-drama Mars, set in 2033, will follow the tales of the first crew to arrive on the red planet.

by Meredith Rutland Bauer
Oct 28 2016, 10:00am

Image: National Geographic

The new space race is focused on who can get humans on Mars first. But what happens after that?

Eventually, colonization will become a major priority, and housing is going to be one of the more difficult challenges for Martian settlers. A new TV show on National Geographic, "MARS," will explore the ins and outs of realistically living on Mars, including where colonists will lay their heads.

Unlike Earth colonists exploring a new world, settlers can't just pitch a makeshift tent and be done with it. Mars is an intense world with deadly challenges. At night, temperatures can plummet to negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, so we'd choke if we tried to breathe it. The planet is being pummeled by cosmic radiation that could cause brain damage. And then there's 60-mile-per-hour dust storms and the occasional meteorite.

The show, a docu-drama set in 2033, will follow the tales of the first crew to arrive on the red planet, interspersed with real commentary on the possibilities of Mars colonization from experts like Space X Founder Elon Musk, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and NASA administrator and former astronaut, Charles Bolden.

So, would the homes in "MARS" actually hold up on the red planet? Scientists who worked on the show say yes. Show producers worked closely with Royal Observatory Greenwich astronomers and Stephen Petranek, author of "How We'll Live on Mars," to make sure the show was up to scientific standards, according to a "Mars" release.

The Martian home shown in the TV show looks like a red brick igloo and (if it were real) would be made out of Martian dirt and parts of the spaceship that transported the astronauts to Mars.

It would work like this: Colonist astronauts would take Martian soil, called regolith, and microwave it until it forms a brick. Then they'd build an igloo-shaped dome home out of the bricks and parts of the space shuttle designed for this purpose.

"The walls themselves will be around 10 feet thick, in order to protect against the harsh Martian environment including temperatures as low as minus seventy degrees Celsius, cosmic radiation, thin atmosphere and micrometeorite impacts," marketing spokeswoman Nicola Franklin said.

Image: National Geographic

The domicile would include sleeping quarters, a staircase, a botany platform, a 3D printer, microwave, water dispenser, a Mars globe, research area and a digital library. A marketing mockup of the home will include flat-screen TVs for guests to watch the show, but that luxury won't be available on Mars.

You can tour a mockup of the Martian home at the UK's Royal Observatory Greenwich. It opens Nov. 10 and will be open for free tours for a week. "MARS" airs Nov. 13 on National Geographic.

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