As a part of Mars City Design 2017, an international symposium of designers, futurists, and scientists, a team from M.I.T have won the competition with their design and architecture for a sustainable urban colony habitat on Mars.
Redwood forest, as they call it, closely resembles the Biosphere 2 type of domed habitat with underground spaces for human survival. The underground habitats are housed under the water-rich roots of the plantation above to provide insulation and protection from the thin atmosphere and radiation. The glass dome on the surface would serve as an enclosure for the greenhouse under which a forest like recreational habitat can be mimicked.
As the design mostly depends on the local natural resources available on Mars — including ice, water, regolith, and the solar energy — it opens up a fastened and progressive scaling options on the planet for a colony.
On the system architecture of the biome, one of the team members involved in the design, George Lordos MBA ’00 says that the trees are engineered to thrive under a water-rich environment, thus giving the opportunity to maintain the water supply for a sustained living — with hydroponics and of course, water! Further down the line, the solar energy could also be used to split hydrogen from the water molecules (electrolysis), to provide oxygen for the living and the fuel for transportation and electronics.
According to the team, if Redwood Forest is deployed on Mars, each habitat could support 50 people and house a wide variety of trees, all interlinked to one another.
Along with the Redwood Forest architecture design, a few other designs under the categories like urban design, AI, sustainable energy, and transportation have won prizes too.
But as most of the models presented in the symposium are design focused, the technical and biological limitations of growing plants on Mars is something that still stays as the most challenging part of any designs.