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#SpaceWatchGL opinion: The Future of Living: Earthly Lessons for Martian Homes

By Dina Gut 

A potential design for Martian or Moon living. Credit of the author themselves

Ever gazed at the stars and wondered how our interstellar abodes on Mars or the Moon might appear? The mere thought sends a pulse of excitement through us — not just because we imagine these galactic shelters as high-tech wonders, but as life sources in harsh terrains. The design intricacies of these extra-terrestrial habitats will be the lifeline for the space pioneers of tomorrow.

But let’s bring our feet back to our home planet for a moment. How evolved are we in designing homes on Earth that resonate with our holistic well-being and health?

In the vast cosmos of architectural possibilities, I present a vision that orbits the intersection of medicine and rational design. Envision an earthly dwelling where every corner rejuvenates, recharges, and reflects our essential needs.

 The astronaut homes of the future should challenge, invigorate, and reconnect us to the rhythms we’ve long forgotten.

Eco-consciousness and sustainable material use? That’s a given in our book. We all universally concur: our designs, whether for Earth or Mars, must tread lightly, causing minimal harm to any life form or ecosystem. The interplay between indoor comfort and the zest of outdoor life is paramount. Homes should be sanctuaries for work, leisure, and creativity. Yet, they should also entice us to embrace the boundless universe outside, even if it’s just our backyard or a Martian base garden.

Our contemporary terrestrial approach leans towards a modular system. Think of a space habitat where each module serves a distinct purpose but comes together as an interlinked entity. There’s the living module — encompassing spaces like the bedroom (optimized for the deepest cosmic slumbers), a dedicated health chamber for meditation and zero-gravity workouts, and common areas for bonding and relaxation. Then, there’s the service module, boasting storage solutions, life-support systems, and waste management.

In collaboration with the visionary architects at Active Design, we’ve drafted stellar designs that might just fit as well on Mars as they would in Manhattan.

Two key highlights:

  • The bedroom isn’t just a sleep chamber; it’s a sleep sanctuary. From advanced adaptive lighting that mimics planetary cycles to tech-free zones ensuring uninterrupted rest — it’s all about quality slumber.
  • Modern kitchens? Think of them as nutrition labs, separate to prevent over-stimulating our senses with delightful aromas, especially vital for those telecommuting from home or communicating from a lunar base.

Let’s not forget the dedicated entertainment zone. In the age of ubiquitous screens, it’s pivotal to designate spaces where digital entertainment doesn’t interfere with our nourishment rituals, preventing the earthly (or perhaps universal) challenge of mindless munching during a movie binge.

Though the modular concept isn’t ground-breaking, reframing it for space habitation provides fresh, exciting dimensions. As we inch closer to becoming an interplanetary species, it’s these innovative design philosophies on Earth that will pave the way for our stellar homes of tomorrow.

Comfort Kills: Reimagining the Astronaut’s Abode

When we think of an astronaut’s dwelling, images of high-tech, ultra-comfortable cocoons often come to mind. However, is relentless comfort really what we need, especially when venturing into the abyss of deep space? The reality might be counterintuitive, pushing us towards designs that lean closer to natural outdoor environments or the rawness of a cave than a luxurious suite.

In the realm of deep space medicine, we’re beginning to understand that our obsession with comfort and stability might be, in fact, detrimental to our well-being. As humanity, our drive for consistency could be considered slightly misguided. After all, nature, in its purest form, is never stagnant. It thrives on change, variation, and unpredictability. The ever-fluctuating parameters of nature, from temperature shifts to light cycles, have been foundational in our evolution as a species. Our physiological and psychological systems have adapted over eons to thrive in these dynamic conditions.

Take the weather, for instance. What do we consider the best weather? It’s unpredictable, changing, and challenges our senses. A sunny day followed by a sudden downpour or a chilling breeze can invigorate us, reminding us of nature’s spontaneity. Similarly, for deep space travellers, an environment that mimics these natural fluctuations can be more invigorating and physiologically beneficial than one that’s consistently static.

Enter AI: our tool for harnessing unpredictability. With advancements in AI, we can design habitats that mirror the changing dynamics of natural environments, even in space. Imagine an astronaut’s abode where the lighting fluctuates, simulating dawn, high noon, dusk, and midnight, or where the air’s composition subtly changes to mimic varying altitudes. Such environments not only stimulate our biological systems but also offer psychological refreshment, crucial for long-duration space missions.

 The design intricacies of these extra-terrestrial habitats will be the lifeline for the space pioneers of tomorrow.

So, as we look towards the future of interstellar living, let’s revaluate our traditional notions of comfort. Embracing change, unpredictability, and natural fluctuation could be the keys to thriving in the vastness of space. Comfort, in its conventional sense, might be killing our adaptability, resilience, and connection to the universe’s inherent nature. The astronaut homes of the future should challenge, invigorate, and reconnect us to the rhythms we’ve long forgotten.

Creating a Living Biome: Embracing Nature Indoors

The home of the future, especially when considering interstellar habitats, should not merely be a shelter, but a living, breathing entity. Central to this vision is the idea of fostering an indoor biome, a constantly evolving ecosystem that encapsulates the vibrancy and dynamism of life on Earth.

Stepping Out by Staying In

Research has consistently underscored the importance of outdoor exposure for human health. Natural sunlight, the subtle shifts in air quality, and even the undulating terrains underfoot play a role in our physical and psychological well-being. Yet, as we contemplate habitats in environments where stepping outside isn’t always feasible—like on Mars or the Moon—it’s imperative that we bring the outdoors in.

A Burst of Green

Plants are not merely decorative. They are vital players in an indoor biome. Through photosynthesis, they replenish our air, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Moreover, certain plants can filter and purify air, removing toxins that can accumulate in sealed environments. But beyond these physiological benefits, plants have profound psychological effects. Their mere presence can reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness, and even boost productivity.

Flowers: Nature’s Art and Perfume

Flowers, with their brilliant hues and fragrant aromas, act as natural mood enhancers. A shifting palette of blooms not only provides visual variety but also introduces different scents, each with its therapeutic benefits. From the calming aroma of lavender to the invigorating scent of roses, flowers can be instrumental in modulating the mood within our homes.

Pets: The Pulse of a Biome

Introducing animals into the mix adds another layer of dynamism. Whether it’s fish gracefully navigating their aquatic realms, birds with their melodic symphonies, or even small mammals, pets introduce movement, sounds, and a connection to the animal kingdom. They are a source of companionship, and their unpredictable behaviours provide endless moments of joy and surprise.

A Fluid Ecosystem

A true biome is never static. It’s a fluid system, with elements that grow, adapt, and evolve. By nurturing a variety of plants, encouraging the growth of diverse microorganisms, and hosting pets, we can create a constantly changing indoor ecosystem. This dynamic environment not only sustains physical health but also keeps our senses engaged and our spirits uplifted.

In conclusion, as we forge ahead into the future, it’s essential that our homes, whether on Earth or in space, are not sterile chambers of isolation. Instead, they should be rich, varied biomes that celebrate life in all its forms and hues. Creating such environments is not just about survival; it’s about thriving in harmony with the natural world.

Living the Astronaut Life: A Glimpse into Our Mountain Abode

Many might assume that these insights into future living are purely speculative. Yet, it is rooted in the lived experiences of my own family. Far from just theorizing, we are living embodiments of the principles I’ve outlined.

Dinaric Alps: Home Amidst Nature’s Whims

Nestled in the majestic Dinaric Alps, our mountain home is a testament to living in sync with nature’s unpredictable rhythms. Here, the weather doesn’t just change—it dances, whirls, and surprises. The fluctuating conditions are not viewed as challenges but embraced as opportunities for growth and adaptability.

Water Mining: An Essential Skill

For a few weeks a year, water doesn’t flow automatically into our house. Rather than seeking modern solutions like drilling, we’ve chosen a different path for our children, many of whom are undergoing astronaut training. They learn the invaluable skill of ‘mining’ water. This hands-on experience not only teaches them about resource management but also instills a sense of resilience and self-reliance, attributes indispensable for future space pioneers.

Winter’s Isolation: A Time for Growth

Winter in the Alps brings with it a blanket of snow so thick that we often find ourselves cut off from the outside world. But rather than bemoan this isolation, we’ve transformed it into a period of introspection, digital connection, and familial bonding. Our children have become adept at navigating the digital world, connecting with peers across the globe while still cherishing the physical communities, cities, and countries they visit throughout the year.

Astro Caves: A Glimpse of the Future

Surrounding our home are numerous caves, each a treasure trove of mysteries waiting to be unraveled. In the near future, these caves will be transformed into ‘Astro Caves.’ These spaces will serve as research hubs and training grounds, simulating extraterrestrial conditions and preparing the next generation for the challenges and wonders of space exploration.

Inspiration Through Action

Our hope is that by sharing our story, we might inspire others to seek out challenges, to embrace the unpredictable, and to prepare for a future that’s not just about surviving but truly thriving. Our home, our choices, and our experiences are more than just a lifestyle; they’re a blueprint for the adventurers of tomorrow. We don’t merely preach about the future; we live it, one day at a time, under the vast canopy of the Dinarian Alps.

Dina Gut. Credit of the author themselves

Dina is an aerospace doctor with expertise in therapy, dietetics, and nutrition. She is the director of the New Space Agency in Serbia, overseeing astronaut selection. Her mission is to empower individuals with the knowledge to prioritize their health.

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