Kenny is a young professional with  6 years of working experience within the field of architecture and engineering.  With the concentration of his masters thesis on the colonization of the asteroid belt, he was able to interact with professionals within the field of both space technologies and robotics, where he began to develop his own approach to space habitats. As a passionate artist, he intends to continue his exploration, and visualization of how humans might begin to dwell outside of Earth. 

Dominic is a prospective environmental science professional, who has an aptitude for the interaction between human and environment. He has hands-on experience as both a field technician and as a laboratory analyst. Specifically, his research and coursework experiences have revolved around hydrogeology, soil microbiology, and the pursuit of a sustainable urban community. Dominic earned a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Earth Science and Sustainability from Miami University. 


The exploration of Mars has taught us a lot about our solar system, and even more about our own planet, Earth. As we get closer to developing the technology that is needed to take us there, the question of what the first humans on Mars will inhabit and how they will traverse the planet are at the forefront of discussion. Blue Shift Industries has taken to task these questions and will focus on how semi-autonomous architecture and the construction of an early colonization infrastructure network can aid in the growth of humans on Mars.

Inspired by NASA’s Journey to Mars initiative, Mars-Genesis demonstrates how semi-autonomous architecture can be packable, expandable, and protected by 3-D printed in situ Martian regolith. Early pioneers of Mars will be subject to many physical constraints, one of the most chronic and deadly being solar radiation. A sustainable Martian mission will take the required precautions to keep astronauts safe. Barrier thickness and material variables were considered during Mars-Genesis research phase. Our in situ sourced barriers will be dependent upon nearby geologic resources. Mars-Genesis anticipates local aluminosilicates and magnesium oxides to be paramount materials when constructing the first Martian structures. When lacking in available resources, ice or a hydrogel synthesis can be formed via 3-D printing capabilities. Mars-Genesis looks to produce an integrated system of structures and utilities that will allow humans to survive on the Red Planet for an extended period of time. The Mars-Genesis HAB model is a scalable fractal framework, influential to galactic architectural systems and surface protection from total solar irradiance.

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Inspired by HP’s Mars Home Planet Concept Challenge, Mawrth-Integra imagines urban growth of the first Martian settlement and proposes a multi-use vehicle fleet that will construct essential in situ infrastructure for moving humans, supplies, and raw materials across the Mawrth Vallis region (25°N, 340°E). Utilizing a systematic, yet malleable, fractal unit framework, Martian colonies can be designed as priorities dictate. The Mawrth-Integra Fleet is the next step in developing inhabited colonies in close proximity to points of valuable interest within the region (e.g. mining, permafrost, climate proxies, urban expansion). The transportation fleet offers an extended distance methane-propulsion carrier, internal-urban track transit, and a semi-autonomous regolith road paver. Early settlement colony-to-colony and internal-urban transport networks will stem from the service which the Mawrth-Integra fleet provides. As martian labor forces continue to arrive and seasonally rotate, ease of transportation allows for analytical allocation of human resources, food, and energy. A connected Mawrth Vallis is the foundation for human expansion across Mars; Mawrth-Integra aims to accomplish this goal.

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Planetary Masterplan

The architect of the future will be a designer versed in the consideration of the traditional approach to humans needs, as well as being proficient in understanding the constraints of space environments and the mechanical application of space technologies. As solar system exploration continues, the inevitable need for human habitation becomes one of the most important things to consider. However, designing reliable planetary architecture and adhering to the economic constraints of launching into space present definitive challenges. Traveling to Mars is a necessary step in the progression of our life support systems, rocket technology, and evolving human habitats. We challenge the long-term focus to be set on Ceres and the asteroid belt, where harvesting water from asteroids could create a self-sustaining resource station that could begin to export oxygen, water, fuel, and rare earth elements (Figure 1). This would allow for less fuel needed to be launched and higher payload allowances, which in turn enables the possibility for a more appropriate architecture for all planetary considerations.

Figure 1. Planetary diagram illustrating the long-term economic progression of the inner solar system.

Figure 1. Planetary diagram illustrating the long-term economic progression of the inner solar system.


                The Martian atmosphere is vastly different than Earth atmosphere. There are four atmospheric layers: exosphere, upper, middle, and lower atmosphere. Additionally, Montmessin and Lefèvre 2013 indicated a seasonal-driven ozone (O3) layer over the South Pole. While Earth atmosphere is compositionally dominated by nitrogen (N) (78%) and oxygen (O) (21%), Mars atmosphere is primarily carbon dioxide (CO2) (96%) (Mahaffy et al. 2013). Mars’ atmosphere is significantly thinner (<1%) than that of Earth. The Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) experiment and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) project have identified that Mars emits magnetic energies, but these energies are neither globally uniform nor strong enough to effectively deflect energetically charged particles entering the atmosphere (Acuña et al. 1998; Jakosky et al. 2015). Following an interplanetary coronal mass ejection (ICME), MAVEN project data was used to recreate a crustal magnetic field strength model. Jakosky et al. 2015 observed patchy crustal magnetic field strength values between 0-200 nanoteslas (nT) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Mars magnetosphere during the later time of an ICME event. The inner 3-D modeled sphere is representative of crustal magnetic field strength at 100 km above Mars surface (Jakosky et al. 2015).

Figure 2. Mars magnetosphere during the later time of an ICME event. The inner 3-D modeled sphere is representative of crustal magnetic field strength at 100 km above Mars surface (Jakosky et al. 2015).

Landing Site: Mawrth Vallis, Mars

Figure 3. Location of Mawrth Vallis (25°N, 340°E). Figure derived from (McKeown et al. 2009).

Figure 3. Location of Mawrth Vallis (25°N, 340°E). Figure derived from (McKeown et al. 2009).

Visually, Mars is a “Red Planet.” The reddish color is derived from the presence of iron oxides (Fe2O3•FeO) in the soil. Mars is topographically diverse. The northern hemisphere is comprised of fanned lava flows and lacks extreme topographical changes. In contrast, the southern hemisphere is heavily cratered and is believed to once carry oceans and active volcanos. The max height difference between stratigraphic features is 30 km (Olympus Mons, altitude +21.2 km; Hellas Impact Basin, altitude -8.2 km). Gravity on Mars is 3.71 m/s2, 0.4 that of Earth gravity. Mars is 227.9 Mkm away from the sun and experiences cold surface temperatures. Mean Mars surface temperature is -63ºC. Temperature varies with geographic location and time of day. A midday sun can raise temperatures to 20ºC at the

Figure 4. OMEGA hyper-spectrometer overlay. Data recorded from Mars Express orbiter. Blue spec is hydrous mineral pockets. Red spec is rich deposits of Fe &amp; Mg smectites (nontronite). Green spec is rich deposits of Al smectites (montmorillonite). Figure derived from (Loizeau et al. 2007).

Figure 4. OMEGA hyper-spectrometer overlay. Data recorded from Mars Express orbiter. Blue spec is hydrous mineral pockets. Red spec is rich deposits of Fe & Mg smectites (nontronite). Green spec is rich deposits of Al smectites (montmorillonite). Figure derived from (Loizeau et al. 2007).

The stage is set for Mawrth Vallis to be considered a possible landing site for the first human settlement on Mars. Located in Northern Arabia Terra on the cusp of Chryse Planitia, Mawrth Vallis is home to many scientific curiosities and exhibits characteristics of an ancient Martian outflow delta (Figure 3). Peak interest in Mawrth Vallis is in part due to it’s lithologically diverse environment (i.e. craters, fluvial plains, valley
outcrops, volcanic ash, permafrost potential). From a survival perspective, abundance and range of raw resources are a significant advantage - the local mineralogy provides just this. Our in situ structures and utilities will ideally be provided from the surrounding environment.

Ancient weathered valley outcrops show signs of aluminum, magnesium, and iron phyllosilicates, which can be extracted and homogenized into a regolith based concrete for additional amenities (Figure 4). These phyllosilicate deposits also provide insight to Martian paleoclimate, as they were formed during a time of hydrated influence, either through physical contact or high-altitude deposition. Intriguingly, hydrated deposits could represent encouraging signs of Martian life, no matter the complexity. Mars’ below freezing surface temperature makes surface liquid water improbable. However, the 150 Gm3 of glacial ice on the planet is an encouraging sign (Karlsson et al. 2015). Model-based studies have projected subsurface water reservoirs throughout the planet (Clifford 1993; Levy et al. 2014; Karlsson et al. 2015). Clifford 1993 was able to map these reservoirs at 10 m, 100 m, and 250 m depth from surface. At 10 m depth, Mars is estimated to have a substantive unconfined aquifer system in the northern hemisphere (Figure 5). In the northern hemisphere, groundwater and permafrost resources are easily accessible relative to the southern hemisphere, where unconfined aquifers are modeled at 100+ m depth (Clifford 1993). Since Mawrth Vallis is located on the hemisphere boundary, we many find worthwhile ground ice resources 10 m below surface.

Figure 5. Mars groundwater inventory. Estimated 10 m below surface. Figure derived from (Clifford 1993).

Figure 5. Mars groundwater inventory. Estimated 10 m below surface. Figure derived from (Clifford 1993).

Total Solar Irradiance (TSI)

Total solar irradiance (TSI) is a measure of the cumulative amount of electromagnetic radiation energy enacted on an area from a star. Luminosity controls the amount of energy emitted from a star, but the total TSI reaching a planet body is largely dependent on distance. TSI enacted on high Mars atmosphere is ~590 W/m2 (Appelbaum and Flood 1990). Even though TSI is greater on Earth, these energies are reflected per a dense atmosphere and the presence of a global magnetic field. Mars does not have such defense systems. The absence of these defensive systems allows radiated galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) and solar energetic particles (SEPs) to reach the surface at dangerous levels to biological life.

GCRs are high speed atomic nuclei (98%) and electrons (2%), which travel throughout the galaxy. GCR nuclei are made up of protons (87%) and helium (He) (12%) (Simpson 1983). GCRs represent day-to-day solar radiation on Mars’ surface. The intensity of GCR radiation is dependent upon solar cycles and coronal mass ejection rates. Primary GCRs, which penetrate Martian atmosphere and soil, can reflect into secondary GCRs. These “albedo” radiated neutrons are present on the surface of Mars and contribute additional radiation (Boynton 2004). Hassler et al. 2014 calculated an average GCR radiation via the MSL Curiosity rover. The study found that, on average, GCRs contribute 210 micrograys per sol (μGy/d) on Mars surface (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Mars surface radiation (t = 300 sol). Data is recorded from MSL Curiosity rover. Linear red benchmarks indicate minimum GCR dose rate, maximum GCR dose rate, and the sol 242 (12 April 2013) “hard” SEP event dose rate. Units are measured in micrograys per day (μGy/d). Dataset gaps are attributed to periods of time when RAD measuring equipment was disabled. Figure derived from (Hassler et al. 2014).

Figure 6. Mars surface radiation (t = 300 sol). Data is recorded from MSL Curiosity rover. Linear red benchmarks indicate minimum GCR dose rate, maximum GCR dose rate, and the sol 242 (12 April 2013) “hard” SEP event dose rate. Units are measured in micrograys per day (μGy/d). Dataset gaps are attributed to periods of time when RAD measuring equipment was disabled. Figure derived from (Hassler et al. 2014).

SEPs are solar flare event-based radiation bursts. SEP atomic nuclei compositional makeup varies. SEPs are separated into two types of releases: “soft” and “hard.” 99% of SEP events are soft and exhibit energies less than 150 mega electronvolts per nucleon (MeV/nuc). Soft events do not penetrate to the Martian surface and do not pose a threat to human settlement. However, hard (>150 MeV/nuc) SEP events are a danger and can reach the surface. The MSL Curiosity rover recorded a single hard SEP event on sol 242 since landing. This SEP event exhibited a radiation intensity of 260 μGy/d (Hassler et al. 2014; Figure 6). Since SEPs are event-based bursts of radiation, 260 μGy/d cannot be considered the maximum dose rate on Mars surface. In order to safely protect astronauts on a Mars surface settlement, we must develop precautionary systems that overestimates the amount of TSI interacting with Mars surface.

Atmospheric Pressure

Figure 7. Mars surface radiation from t = 21 d to t = 26 d and REMS atmospheric pressure data of the same time period. RAD dose rate is recorded from MSL Curiosity rover. Max pressure dips are correlated with the associated gain in RAD dose rate. Figure derived from (Hassler et al. 2014).

Figure 7. Mars surface radiation from t = 21 d to t = 26 d and REMS atmospheric pressure data of the same time period. RAD dose rate is recorded from MSL Curiosity rover. Max pressure dips are correlated with the associated gain in RAD dose rate. Figure derived from (Hassler et al. 2014).

In addition to the absence of a protective magnetic field, Mars’ atmospheric pressure is variable. The variability associated with Mars atmospheric pressure contributes to surface TSI dose rates. Hassler et al. 2014 combined Curiosity RAD measured data with Rover Environment Monitoring Station (REMS) atmospheric pressure measured data (Gómez-Elvira et al. 2012) and confirmed an inverse relationship between the two (Figure 7). As atmospheric pressure decreases, radiation dose rate increases. Dips in atmospheric pressure result in a dose rate increase of ~10 μGy/d. In order to set a precedent for radiation precautionary systems, the inverse relationship between atmospheric pressure and radiation dose rate must be considered.

Radiation Protection design criteria

Defining a Mars surface radiation protection baseline must consider day-to-day GCRs, event-based SEPs, dips in atmospheric pressure, and the possibility of a max radiation dose rate not yet recorded. Our goal is to protect Mars astronauts from all surface radiation during a temporary human settlement. Our dose rate protection goal is designed to prepare for a worst-case radiation scenario. We propose a RAD protection goal of 280 μGy/d.   

  1.  Periodic Galactic Cosmic Rays

    •     RAD Protection = 225 μGy/d 

  2.  “Hard” Solar Energetic Particle Event

    •     RAD Protection = 260+ μGy/d 

  3.  Atmospheric Pressure Variation

    •     RAD Protection = 10 μGy/d 

  4. Safety factor & Unknown Buffer

    •     RAD Protection = + 10 μGy/d 

Using In Situ Materials

As of current status, NASA’s Journey to Mars is in the process of developing systems that will convert in situ Martian-based material into structural elements for construction. A main driving force behind this effort is cost. For every 1 kg of material launched on the mission, NASA must spend $10,000 USD. Additionally, every 1 kg of material launched from low Earth orbit (LEO) requires 11 kg of fuel on a Mission to Mars. Thus, 1 kg of in situ material saves $110,000 USD.  The ability to produce an effective solar radiation barrier that can be used on structural components from in situ materials will help NASA protect the health of Mars astronauts and save launching costs. Current galactic radiation exposure limits, set by NASA, are between 600-1200 millisieverts (mSV) for a single astronaut career. A barrier produced from in situ materials will strive to reduce radiation exposure as much as possible.

Regolith Properties

Table 1. Mars surface regolith composition in mass percentage. Oxides are organized from highest percent mass to lowest percent mass. Data derived from (Rieder et al. 1997).

We believe that Mars regolith is the most logical in situ material to use for producing structural elements for construction. Typical regolith particle size is 0.1 - 10 mm (Arvidson et al. 1989) and is a collectable resource via robotic excavators. Compositionally, Mars regolith is primarily silicon dioxide (SiO2) (44%) and iron oxide (FeO•Fe2O3) (18%) (Table 1). It is also host to a variety of additional oxides, including magnesium oxide (MgO), aluminum oxide (Al2O3), calcium oxide (CaO), and etc. The Mars soil data from Pathfinder and the Viking Lander are our projective scope to the composition of Mars. We will recollect on what Earth-like structural materials may be feasible considering an average regolith composition of the current database. Ideally, the materials used for in situ utilization are present at any and all Martian geographic locations. We will attempt to forge a raw material that divvies away from oxides, which are not present in all regolith samples.

Table 2. Mass percentage comparison between Mars surface regolith and portland cement. Mars regolith data is Pathfinder Ref-2 and Viking Lander Ref-3 soil data values averaged. Portland cement data is derived from (van Oss 2005). * indicates that the associated oxide was only seen in one regolith sample set, not both. All values are in mass percent.

Portland Cement

After taking a step back to determine what oxides are present in Mars regolith, we were intrigued by the idea of an ordinary portland cement (OPC) inspired radiation barrier. Portland cement is extensively used in Earth-based structures and human development. We believe that a material derived from Mars regolith should imitate the process of laying concrete. In order to decide if portland cement is a feasible in situ product, we compared the composition of Earth-derived portland cement and Mars surface regolith compositional properties (Table 2).

Tharsis Cement

Although base element content of Mars regolith and portland cement are similar, we conclude that the need for a ~60% mass ratio of CaO in generic portland cement negates it as a viable mix source for Mars settlement construction. Alternatively, we believe that the oxides present in Mars regolith offer the opportunity to produce a viable in situ mix source for Mars settlement construction. We propose that the construction of Mars settlement structures be produced from Tharsis cement. We categorize Tharsis cement as a “geocement” - a term deemed by Ukrainian civil engineer, Pavel Krivenko, which focuses on the use of natural geologic materials (Krivenko 1997). Tharsis cement is a material that is produced using in situ Mars regolith. Tharsis cement will provide stability to Mars settlement structures and will act as an effective solar radiation protection barrier from GCRs and SEP events. We propose that the source mix of Tharsis cement be a hybrid cement - incorporating functional properties of multiple Earth cement materials, but compensating for the dependency of using exclusively in situ material available and inability to mass produce portland cement.    

CaO-Based Concrete: Portland Cement

Portland cement is the most common concrete material used on Earth. A CaO-based cement was our initial inspiration for an in situ Martian construction material. Since there is a -57.9% mass discrepancy between Mars surface regolith and portland cement, we conclude that a CaO-based cement, alone, will not provide a solution to Mars construction needs (Table 2). We see potential to investigate further CaO-based concretes, such as calcium sulfoaluminate cements (CSAC). Specifically, we see potential in ye’elimite (C4A3Ŝ), belite (C2S), and alite (C3S). Our scope has been focused on (C4A3Ŝ), (C2S), and (C3S) because their chemical structures are less mass dependent on CaO in comparison to OPC (Gartner 2004). Our major concern for using in situ raw materials for a Mars settlement is the lack of CaO in regolith samples. Without alternatives to CaO-Based cements, we would, without a doubt, expunge energy and resources.

MgO-Based Concrete: Ceramicrete

Unlike CaO, Mars surface regolith has a positive MgO% mass discrepancy, when compared to portland cement (Table 2). We believe that the relative enriched amount of MgO in Mars surface regolith can be used in a MgO-based concrete mix as an alternative to, CaO heavy, portland cement. MgO-based concretes have been used as industrial applications on Earth in the form of Ceramicrete (MgKPO4•6H2O). Studies have shown that Ceramicrete is a viable construction material and can act as an alternative to typical cements (McLeod 2005; Swanson 2010; Kidalova et al. 2011; Kidalova et al. 2012). Additionally, Ceramicrete coatings can act as radiative barriers. MgO-based cements have the potential to immobilize and contain nuclear waste (Wagh et al. 1999; Wagh 2004; Vinokurov et al. 2009) and the ability to shield from neutrons, gamma-rays, and beta-rays (Singh et al. 2000; Wagh et al. 2015). However, a +6.6% mass discrepancy between Mars surface regolith and portland cement, alone, will not compensate for a -57.9% CaO differential. We believe that Ceramicrete has high potential and that incorporating it into a solar radiation barrier is a definitive possibility.  

Al2O3-Based Concrete: Aluminosilicates

Similar to MgO, Mars surface regolith has a positive Al2O3% mass discrepancy, when compared to portland cement (Table 2). We believe that the relative enriched amount of Al2O3 in Mars surface regolith can be used in an Al2O3-based concrete mix as an alternative to, CaO heavy, portland cement. Al2O3-based concretes have been used as industrial applications on Earth in the form of aluminosilicates. In order to produce aluminosilicate materials, three requirements must be met: 1) high solubility in source medium, 2) high availability of Al2O3, and 3) high availability of SiO2. Glukhovsky 1967 discovered that aluminosilicate agents could act as structural binders, free of CaO via akali-activating. Studies note that aluminosilicates can be used as a CaO-based alternative structural material (Wilson et al. 1980; Provis and Van Deventer 2009; Shi et al. 2011; Conciauro et al. 2015; Gawwad et al. 2016). However, a +2.2% mass discrepancy between Mars surface regolith and portland cement, alone, will not compensate for a -57.9% CaO differential. We believe that aluminosilicates have potential to be a reliable structural material, but alone can not be extensively utilized to provide all large-scale construction needs.

Hybrid Concrete: Tharsis Cement

Figure 8. CaO-SiO2-Al2O3 system and cement materials.

Figure 8. CaO-SiO2-Al2O3 system and cement materials.

We believe that Tharsis cement, composed of hybrid materials, can be a basis for the type of in situ regolith source mix that is required to produce the outermost layer of Mars surface structures. Conceptually, Tharsis cement will be a hybrid source mix that encompasses CaO-based, MgO-based, and Al2O3-based source mix intrusions. By including both a MgO-based and an Al2O3-based cement component to our proposed in situ regolith mix, we can reduce the overall need for CaO in Mars settlement structures. We estimate our multiple partitioned source mix to fall between SiO2 and Al2O3 vertices and to be drawn away from OPC in a CaO-SiO2-Al2O3 system (Figure 8).

Dissolution of Abundant Fe2O3

We figure that Fe2O3 will be featured in Tharsis cement, but only at trace mass percent levels similar to that of OPC. Mars surface regolith has an average iron oxide mass percent composition of 18%. Chemically, the imbalance of iron oxide in the in situ source mix could pose an issue since our proposed hybrid concrete does not primarily feature iron. In order to alleviate this issue, we propose a method to dissolve regolith-based Fe2O3. This method will feature the use of sodium dithionite (Na2S2O4). Mars surface regolith has, on average, 6.5% mass SO3 and Na2O was measured at 3.6% mass from Pathfinder Ref-2 samples. Since these oxides are not dominant agents in Tharsis cement, they can be used to produce Na2S2O4. There are multiple methods of removing soil-borne Fe2O3, including sodium sulfide (Na2S) - oxalic acid (Truog et al. 1937), Al - ammonium (NH4) buffered oxalate (Jeffries 1946), Mg - NH4 buffered oxalate (Jeffries 1946), Na2S2O4 in an acid system (Deb 1950), and Na2S2O4 - sodium citrate with a NaHCO3 buffer (Mehra and Jackson 1958). Pending the availability of adequate systems to extract in situ groundwater or permafrost to produce the necessary acid system, the Fe2O3 removal method proposed by Deb 1950 seems feasible and the most simplistic considering the encompassing environment. Removing Fe2O3 from the base in situ material before convection into our source mix will negate potential chemical imbalances in the Tharsis cement ratio.

Ice and Hydrogels

In addition to using in situ regolith, we consider Mars ice, groundwater, and permafrost to be potential viable resources. Similar to regolith, Mars surface ice has radiation protection potential (Dartnell et al. 2007; Pavlov et al. 2012). An ice or frozen hydrogel barrier may be useful considering functional structural elements, such as a window or greenhouse module. As of current, there are hydrogels which are comprised of up to 90% water and can bind to non-porous surfaces (Yuk et al. 2015). If water is readily accessible upon the Mars surface settlement, ice and hydrogels are both viable construction materials. Additionally, there is much benefit to studying the potential of Mars ice as a resource. The "Icebreaker" mission will allow us to explore subsurface ice for the presence of a potential paleosoils record (Zacny et al. 2013). We believe that Mars' ice has the potential to be a significant resource in the pursuit of a Mars surface settlement.

Radiation and Soil Penetration

Figure 9. Absorbed radiation dose and depth into Mars surface. Pure Ice (PI) is taken from a Cerberus ice pack from Murray et al. 2005. Permafrost (PF) is taken from Arabia Terra from Mitrofanov et al. 2004. Dry Regolith (DR) is mean Pathfinder soil data from Wänke et al. 2001. Figure derived from (Dartnell et al. 2007).&nbsp;&nbsp;

Figure 9. Absorbed radiation dose and depth into Mars surface. Pure Ice (PI) is taken from a Cerberus ice pack from Murray et al. 2005. Permafrost (PF) is taken from Arabia Terra from Mitrofanov et al. 2004. Dry Regolith (DR) is mean Pathfinder soil data from Wänke et al. 2001. Figure derived from (Dartnell et al. 2007).  

If we want to determine a suitable dimension for the thickness of an in situ solar radiation barrier, we must solve for the threshold depth within Mars surface soil that is not effected by GCRs or SEPs. Day-to-day GCR radiation has the potential to penetrate 1-2 m into Martian soil (Pavlov et al. 2012). Dartnell et al. 2007 modeled surface and subsurface Martian radiation of pure ice (PI), permafrost (PF), and dry regolith (DR). This study compared absorbed radiation by depth of the modeled materials and was able to conclude that radiation decreases with sub-surface depth (Dartnell et al. 2007; Figure 9). After converting, Dartnell et al. 2007 model calculations suggest that max absorbed radiation at Mars surface per sol is ~480 μGy/d (Figure 9). This value is made up of both primary and secondary “albedo” radiation (Boynton 2004). In this case, we predict that the additional dosage (~200 μGy/d) absorbed is seen only within the first 10-20 cm. The radiation penetration data derived from Wänke et al. 2001 and Mitrofanov et al. 2004 suggests that a dry regolith or a permafrost barrier may inhibit incoming radiation after ~3 m depth, respectively. Comparatively, a pure ice-based barrier would need to have a thickness of 5+ m to negate incoming radiation. While pure ice has radiation protection potential, it requires more material for the same about of radiation protection. However, if groundwater and permafrost are more readily accessible and ample, in comparison to an in situ regolith barrier source material, they may offer a more plausible solution to solar radiation protection.

Considering absorbed radiation and its relationship to depth and material, we conclude that dry regolith has the greatest potential to protect against solar radiation. However, we acknowledge that both permafrost and pure ice materials may offer a more efficient solution for a radiation barrier in unique circumstances. We believe that the best solution is to incorporate multiple materials in a Mars surface radiation barrier. In the future, we would like to physically test absorbed dose rates of Mars surface soil that is isolated inside mock regolith, permafrost, and ice protective barriers with different thickness dimensions.  


In order to quantify total in situ barrier volume, and Earth launch cost savings, we must match physical dimensions of a Mars settlement structure and the barrier thickness that is required to protect against radiation. Our base structural unit is simplistic, yet, above all, functional. Our proposed unit is spherical in nature with a flat foundation, which lies upon Mars surface regolith (Figure 10). Tharsis concrete surrounds our structural unit. Additionally, we consider the possibility of an ice or frozen hydrogel-based viewing portal. We have designed a structure that is scalable, both up and down, to serve multiple uses (e.g. maintenance, storage, medical, laboratory community living, agriculture, hygiene, and personal habitats, etc.). The scale factor is 80%, respectively, and can be applied with increasing structural unit size or decreasing structural unit size. This is applicable per the use of fractal geometry in our payload system.

Considering proposed structural dimensions, amount of barrier material required, and density of the associated material, we can estimate Earth launch cost savings (Table 3). We use the following set of equations to estimate the cost benefit of using an in situ solar radiation structural barrier:

Figure 10. Mars settlement structure and dimensional properties. A) Bird’s-eye view of floor plan. B) Side view of structure. The unit dimensions shown above are that of fractal unit 4 (e.g. medical, laboratory, communal living).  

Cost Savings and Mission Goal  

Table 3. In situ barrier and relative Earth launch cost savings. Barrier Type is categorized as regolith-based (R), ice-based (I), or a hybrid (H) barrier of both regolith and ice derived components. Regolith density value conceptually simulated as 33% portland cement (2320 kg/m3), 33% Ceramicrete (1800 kg/m3), and 33% aluminum silicate (2350 kg/m3). Ice density value is known. Hybrid density value is ((R density + I density)/2).  

While there is definitive variability associated with our input values used to calculate total cost savings, our values represent a larger notion. We believe that without the use of in situ materials as a building source, a phase 2: Mars surface stay initiative would be economically unfeasible. In order for humans to live on Mars, a system using in situ materials to protect against solar radiation is required. This statement is supported by our estimate of a 1 trillion USD Earth launch savings for a single level-1 fractal unit (L1, L2 = 20.48m; H = 10.24m) (Table 3). This cost savings increases with an increase in size of structural unit.

Our proposal goal is to design a functional, realistic, and inspirational system that would enable astronauts to land on Mars, conduct research on Mars, and live on Mars over an extended period of time. In terms of safety, we believe that a solar radiation barrier is one of the greatest challenges associated with humans living on Mars. On Mars surface, radiation is everywhere. Unless proper protective measures are taken, in the form of structure protection and clothing protection, a human settlement on Mars would be undoubtedly unsustainable. Specifically, solving the issue of solar radiation requires adequate knowledge of heliophysics, atmospheric science, hydrology, geology, chemistry, and civil engineering. The span of disciplines that are in conjunction make this objective a daunting task. However, as with any human exploratory endeavor, there is pursuit and unparalleled optimism that one day humans will habituate Martian soil.

Architectural Integration

Until substantial infrastructure that consistently exports space-harvested resources is developed, space travel will remain expensive and the ability to design adequate architecture for long-term human dwelling will remain limited. Mars-Genesis has developed a mock architectural typology, outlining the phasing of potential planetary habitats (Figure 11), each with their own specific limitations. Mars-Genesis is a proposal that synthesizes and enhances all phases of existing typology. It utilizes an efficient packing and expansion design that fits within standard launch constraints, has a semi-autonomous inflatable inner bladder, and has an exterior 3-D printed barrier that uses both concrete and hydrogel to deflect radiation (Figure 12). That is, Mars-Genesis presents a functional approach to how prototypical space habitats can have aspects of Earth manufacturing for pre-testing, planetary and semi-autonomous construction, and the use of in situ manufactured space resources. Above all else, Mars-Genesis presents an architecture that embraces the unique conditions on Mars by using design criteria on three crucial elements: 1) protecting human life, 2) extracting and applying abstract concepts of Earth architecture, and 3) utilizing new materials and composing new methods of construction. Adhering to a multi-facet ideological approach of the types of barriers that Mars-Genesis is capable of producing is crucial. This gives inhabitants flexibility when producing structures in the event of a lack of available regolith mineral resources or ground ice scarcity, in a fixed location.

Figure 11. Architecture class progression typology of a proposed Mars surface settlement

Figure 11. Architecture class progression typology of a proposed Mars surface settlement

Figure 12. Autonomous core inflation transformation.

Figure 13. Architectural plans and section.

As architects, we have a dual responsibility of both creating places that work and function, but also to create spaces for people to enjoy. Le Corbusier’s famous quote, “A house is a machine for living in,” embodied the approach to utilize technological advances, create efficient designs, and embrace purism (Corbusier 1946). The challenge for space architecture is to maintain balance between mechanical function and the need to provide for inhabitants. Space architecture can be conceptualized as a machine in which people will live, yet space architects can use this machine as a tool to create an architecture that in every sense, becomes alive. Further, the essence of architecture is in its connection to daily life. Ann Cline states, “Only in a hut of one’s own can a person follow his or her own desires…find one’s very own self, the source of humanity’s song” (Cline 1997). Mars-Genesis will harmonize the key elements of functioning spaces, connection to daily life and enjoyment, technology, and machine into a symphony of architectural elements.

Mars-Genesis HAB accommodates 6 researchers and provides 4 primary functioning spaces: living space, personal care space, research space, and personal HAB spaces. The geometry takes advantage of equilateral triangles, circles, and hexagons to effectively utilize the functions for each specific advantage.

Anthropomorphic Sketch Studies

Figure 14. Anthropomorphic sketch studies.

Martin Heidegger defines dwelling as "the way in which we humans are on the Earth.” He also calls what is between Earth and sky "the world", and says that "the world is the house where mortals dwell” (Norberg-Schulz 1980). But what happens when humans begin to dwell in places beyond the limits of our own planet? Do considerations overlap between humans dwelling on Earth and humans dwelling in outer space? Some may argue that the unique conditions of these new environments should be rejected altogether and masked with architecture that is "Earth-like" for the sake of attempting to make these environments "like Earth.” However, an alternate perspective is to embrace the unique conditions of these other worlds when designing space habitats. Designing for human habitation must consider how the human body functions, and the 1/3 gravitational adjustment alone will change how humans engage in basic activities like walking and sitting. Lower gravity alone warrants a small, close space that accommodates a more forgiving barrier to live within.

In Michael Benedikt’s, "For an Architecture of Reality", he discusses "direct aesthetic experiences of the real." He highlights that humans’ most memorable experiences are often created from distinct moments throughout life, where humans construct their own realities. Benedikt argues that these memorable experiences should be at the center of design concerns, as humans should be put into contact with their subjective realities and find beauty within them (Benedikt 1987). The reality for space habitation is weightlessness; more direct and unshielded connection with the sun; and vast, surrounding emptiness of space with views of stars, moons, and planets. Thus, humans dwelling in space should be put into contact with reality as it stands, not as re-creation of realities that are experienced on Earth.

Figure 15. Parti diagram of functioning spaces.

In the context of Mars, we have no collective experiences yet. Our perceived needs have been volume, space, light, nature, amongst other things that are specific to Earth. Space habitation designs will need to forge a new direct aesthetic experience based upon primal needs while still incorporating volume, light, and nature from which humans often derive beauty. Furthermore, mechanical, technological, sociological, psychological, and physiological needs may vary substantially on Mars as compared to on Earth, and meeting these multi-faceted needs must be considered in space habitation design. That is, designing for Mars will require identifying how to satisfy the hierarchy of human needs within extraterrestrial environments.

Figure 16. Fractal development strategy.

Fractal Site Strategies

Fractal geometry is one of the few concepts that behaves similarly in a biological standpoint as it does in a cosmological one. Scalable fractals units are proficient considering the distribution of habitat arrangements. From an architectural standpoint, fractal units allow a governing design to scale with varying volumes and spaces. Starting with a single initiator (one geometry) and a generator (one tartan grid link), the geometric relationships will naturally scale, rotate, and emerge into many rich, potential arrangements. A scalable fractal unit design can create schemes are free flowingly chaotic, mathematically elegant, and suitable for efficient use of space.

Using scalable fractals gives astronauts the freedom to construct a base by adding or subtracting units as they need, per their own designation. Moreover, structures would move easily along the Martian landscape, facilitating adaptation on a planet fraught with the need to adapt. Inhabitants could dwell in a non-oppressive architecture on an already alien world. This would promote the crew’s autonomy by allowing them to make their own design decisions based off of their specific needs.

Biomimetic Inspiration

Figure 17. Mechanical leg struts.

Designing viable habitats for space colonization is a creative and mechanistic challenge, yet by expanding the scope through which design and construction ideas are generated, it is possible to see that a precedent for such designs and their effective implementation already exists: in nature. A spider can curl its legs into a ball and moments later use those legs to crawl and jump. Locust can construct a cocoon that provides utmost shelter from predators and dangerous elements. The structural components that allow spiders and locust to function so flawlessly can be translated into a mechanical languageof distinct components which provide a credible blueprint for designing and creating space habitats. Mars-Genesis uses these precedents for deriving solutions for space technologies in effort to harmonize engineering with art.  

Figure 18. Interchangeable gadgetry.

Having the ability to modify these environments will be another critical aspect to consider. With limited volume and limited resources, the need for an interchangeable system will be optimal. Interior space gadgetry can configure to serve a wide array of purposes ranging from exercise, communication, or relaxing.


For years, architectural theorists have cautioned that architecture must evolve its building methods. This was further reinforced by Professor J.D. Bernal who wrote in the “Social Function of Science: “It will soon be possible to break altogether with the tradition of putting stone on stone or brick on brick and move in the direction of rational fabrication” (Pawley 1990). Bringing architecture to space is no exception to this recommendation. As space colonization begins, it is necessary for designers to consider and develop unique construction methods. The architecture will need to move, it will need to breathe, and it will ultimately need to regenerate and reproduce. Construction methods, then, must adapt to space-specific architectural needs, and identifying ways to utilize in situ materials to build space-specific structures becomes critically important.  

Deep space habitation will rely on using many different strategies to successfully create both dwellings, which ensure survivability and quality of life. Space architecture must utilize mechanical components, inflatable bladders, foam extruded partitions, telescoping and transforming structure, as well as the production of in situ materials. The inner bladder of the HAB module acts like a balloon, ensuring the envelope of indoor air quality. The three mechanical legs act as structural supports to provide rigidity to the overall structural frame. The real advantage becomes apparent in the combination of biological mimicry and mechanical elements. The HAB grows, inflates, and burrows itself in a shell of regolith, autonomously.


Figure 20. Typical wall section.

Figure 19. Base expansion diagram.

Figure 19. Base expansion diagram.

Conscious Architecture

Figure 21. Mars in situ Typology (100% hydrogel, synthesis (50/50), and 100% regolith).

Figure 21. Mars in situ Typology (100% hydrogel, synthesis (50/50), and 100% regolith).

When designing the proper methodology and mixture of in situ materials, there are multiple composition strategies. For example, one structure may require higher translucency for geographic variables. In this case, a higher ratio of hydrogel may be considered. In contrast, some units there may not need natural light. In this case, regolith may be the appropriate choice. The concept becomes advantageous in the fact that again, the design decision remains with the crew, not the designer. 

Figure 22. 3-D printer arm mechanics and nozzle diagram.

The circulatory system of the hab module is compacted within the core of the structure, utilizing both water recycling and air quality control. This could be pre-tested on earth along with the 3-D printer, regolith vac, fans, motors, and batteries. This does however require exterior connectivity to a nuclear generator or other worthy power source, along with an exterior waste containment.

Colonization Phases

Ultimately, Mawrth Vallis will be the epicenter of the human interplanetary experiment. This technological transition in survival will occur in three focus phases, each resulting in an expansion of space-bound capabilities.

• P1 Survival: Expand environmental knowledge, replicate systems for living (food, oxygen, water), define long-term medical concerns, Earth-dependent.

• P2 Growth: Reliable transport and access regional high-value resources, coordinate Martian labor positions, semi-independence.

• P3 Establish: Increase living standards, utilize bioengineering capabilities, construct orbital relay, build population, full-independence.

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Transportation Fleet Integration

In order to reach a precedent of colony growth phases, transportation is a must. The rate at which people and resources move are the catalyst to growth, in any industrialized situation. The Mawrth-Integra fleet is designed to provide this service to Martian inhabitants during early planetary growth phases. Offering localized urban travel from internal habitat units, and extended travel to isolated colonies and current undeveloped outcrops, the fleet can be utilized for human resource transport, cargo delivery, or survey missions. In addition, the semi-autonomous regolith paver can be programed on direct routes between localized colonies, to outskirt habitats, or directly to resource points of interest (Figure 23).

The semi-autonomous paver of has a range of unique capabilities. Excavation paths can be remotely preset and monitored from within colonies boundaries by software technicians. The Paver can plow bulk surface obstructions, vacuum up regolith particulate dust, process into a homogenous concrete mix, print into a surface adhesive layer, and compact to a level grade. The piloted propulsion carrier is the primary long distance transport option on Mars. Similar to Earthen flight systems, our carrier utilizes low surface gravitational forces to propel above rough terrain. Mimicking honey bee motion mechanics, carriers are designed to land from pod-to-pod, moving humans and resources between colonies spread amongst the Martian landscape. The urban track is the primary mode of transport between connected colony infrastructure systems. The track utilizes previously paved roads as direct routes to major colony nodes and as outskirt transit to reach required units. A mirrored design allows for forward and reverse vehicular travel. Dual female airlock connectors eliminate the need for pressure acclimation and promote quick movement around the colony perimeter. As these networks are set between colonies, resource availability will grow and the Martian settlement will be able to accompany an increased number of humans. By utilizing these types of transportation, Mawrth Vallis will require mechanics to repair and calibrate the vehicles, chemical engineers to produce fuel production and storage systems to alleviate dependance from Earth resupply stocks, software programers to issue semi-autonomous codes for the paver to follow, and propulsion carrier pilots to ensure skill and standards when operating cargo transfers.

Figure 23. Mawrth-Integra near-surface transportation Fleet.

Figure 23. Mawrth-Integra near-surface transportation Fleet.


Population Density

Growth of an urban center is determined by people, structures, transit, and sustainability. The combination of Mars-Genesis structures and Mawrth-Integra transport is set to provide the ability for the first 1 million, Earth-born, humans to live, work, and experience the definition of an interplanetary species. While obvious, it is important to reiterate that the first Martian city is not an Earth city. On Mars, inhabitants are limited by water, soil, oxygen, gravity, and the lack of a magnetic field. Initial systems are focused on survivability and their primary goal being able to keep humans biologically alive on Mars, so that they can illustrate the framework for colonial growth phases. Given this goal, we imagine the first city on Mars to be rugged, strict on resources, labor intensive - tough. The first 1 million people on Mars are the foundation for a galactic relay interlinking further space navigation, some will not see the completionist form of their work in their lifetime. Establishing reliable ground ice extraction points, mining rich deposits for 3-D tooling and structures, and surveying future points of interest will makeup the core goals of early phase colonization.

While there is a substantial amount of variation that could alter our prediction (e.g. unit size, human occupancy per unit, single colony versus point of interest outcrops), we have designed a proof-of-population of 1 million humans on Mars. We envision the population to be divided among 4 separate colonies, each specializing in a task relative to their region of the cap landing site. Accounting for estimated utility use (Ref Doc 5) distributions (e.g. Living HAB, O2 circulation, Engineering Bay, etc.), fractal unit sizing (Ref Doc 4), and average unit living capabilities (Ref Doc 4), the first Martian colonies will cover ~30 km2 of regolith surface (Table 4).

Table 4. Mock population and specialization of Phase 1 Martian colonies. Indicators are referenced to Supporting Documentation pg. 3. Population estimates calculated from Supporting Documentation pg. 4-5.

Table 4. Mock population and specialization of Phase 1 Martian colonies. Indicators are referenced to Supporting Documentation pg. 3. Population estimates calculated from Supporting Documentation pg. 4-5.


We are fortunate to be living during a time when we will witness the progression of the new age of exploring the cosmos. "The sky is the limit", a saying that now couldn't be further from the truth in regards to our capabilities of scientific discovery. With that progression, there has never been a greater need for technology, greater minds for problem solving, and greater imaginations to consider the effectiveness of architectural design as something that must be beneficial. As architects begin to take responsibility for designing beneficial architecture, they will have to consider the resources available on the planet. Using a phenomenological approach to human consideration, and providing an autonomous platform in which crew begin to make design decisions; we can begin to synthesize the two into a more complete, and rich approach to beneficial design for any environment. As creators, we must conclude that architecture is not only a prominent display of art and beauty but a mechanism of resilience and adaptation.

Blue Shift Industries is excited to have the opportunity to propose systems that may contribute to an era of space travel and the processes which lead to a safe and effective exploration of our solar system. Mars-Genesis & Mawrth-Integra have laid the framework for us to continue research, converge on localized barrier and pavement mixture formulas, refine development of an extraterrestrial HAB model, and evaluate internal vehicle operations and engine mechanics. We believe that there can be significant improvement to our research and design phases. Continuing our pursuit of an integrated system that will allow humans to survive on Mars’ surface for an extended period of time will require us to pronounce a multitude of aspects related to realistic human survival needs on another planet. Following an internal evaluation, we believe that further proposal efforts can be enhanced by expanding on the following initiatives (see below).

•    Mars Product Timeline                                                   •    Reduce Total Barrier Material Needed

•    Prototype Structure Model                                              •    Geoengineering & Terraforming

•    Chemical Tharsis Cement & Hydrogel Formulas            •    Promote Microbial and Soil Growth

•    Harness Atmospheric C (polycarbonates)                        •    Groundwater & Surface Regolith Model

•    Galactic SEP Warning Notification                                 •    Reduce Payload Size



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