Alongside interpersonal factors, the architecture also had an influence on the scientists’ mental well-being. Heinicke is now incorporating her findings into a new project. At ZARM in Bremen, she and her team are developing a housing facility which could be used on the moon or on Mars in the future.
Shielded against cosmic radiation
“Bremen is a major hub for the space industry, and therefore the obvious place to develop this kind of habitat,” says Heinicke, who has now moved to the city on the Weser after studying and working in Ilmenau in eastern Germany, in Sweden, Finland and, recently, in Hawaii. Previous facilities used to conduct experiments on living together in an extraterrestrial environment were primarily designed for psychological studies and training purposes. In contrast, the current MaMBA (Moon and Mars Base Analog) project now aims to put the technical considerations at the forefront for the first time. “In the past, similar habitats were fundamentally technically flawed. We want to eliminate these flaws,” explains the scientist. Housing and working spaces designed in the past were usually made up of a connected complex, which could have fatal consequences in the event of a fire, as the inhabitants would have nowhere to escape to. Another significant consideration is the development of shielding against cosmic radiation, as this would otherwise lead to severe health problems.
The lab module as a starting point
What would be the ideal shape for the facility? Which material is most suitable? What equipment is needed in each room to ensure that the inhabitants can work optimally and be comfortable at the same time? These questions, and others like them, are exactly what Heinicke and her team hope to answer over the course of the two-and-a-half-year project. They plan to design independent modules which will be connected using a system of locks. “We’re starting with a lab module, where biological, geological and potentially also chemical experiments can be conducted,” explains the 32-year-old. “To do this, we’re working closely with various scientists to learn what they need and what experiments could be interesting to carry out on the moon or on Mars.” Currently, architects and engineers are busy working on the design. The project leader hopes that the first module will be completely constructed and fully furnished by the time the MaMBA project, funded by the Klaus Tschira Foundation, comes to an end. “I don’t expect everything to go perfectly on our first try. For the following modules, we will then be able to learn from our experiences to improve the facility even more.”
Same shape, different equipment
If Christiane and her team have their way, they will then work on the other modules in the facility. As all the modules will look the same, they will be able to recreate the external hulls relatively quickly. Only the airlocks will differ significantly from the other modules in terms of their design. For the four additional units which have initially been planned, the scientists will then ‘only’ have to design the interior – a not insignificant task. These units will form the kitchen, the bedrooms, a storage room which will include a workshop, and a multifunctional module intended to accommodate a greenhouse and sports equipment.