The possibility of colonizing Mars has fascinated humans for centuries, and recent discoveries by NASA have brought this dream closer to reality. In 2016 and 2018, the American University of Beirut (AUB) partnered with the Harvard Business School Aerospace Alumni Group (HBSAAG) to create the innovative and challenging course “Mars Studio.” This credited course was divided into different episodes, with the first theme being “Conquest and Survival.” It challenged students to design innovative and habitable shelters for human beings on the surface of Mars, utilizing cutting-edge technology and materials to withstand extreme cold, high radiation levels, lack of oxygen, and frequent dust storms.
This unique course aimed to directly engage AUB faculty members, students, and HBSAAG consultants in developing and designing functional components for future habitats beyond Earth. Through “Mars Studio,” students gained exposure to space innovation, rocket launchers and landers, the study of Mars’ environment, the use of 3D printing technology on Mars, the economic viability of each project, and the importance of technology transfer.
With this course, students can be at the forefront of innovation and design utilitarian Mars shelters for future space habitats. By turning ideas into inventions and taking the initiative to make Mars a habitable planet for humanity, they have the potential to contribute to the future of human exploration beyond Earth.
The Mars Studio course with the American University of Beirut presents a multifaceted and complex challenge that requires students to think creatively, work collaboratively, and develop innovative solutions for the future of space exploration and habitation.
As a course that combines design, engineering, and business, students must work collaboratively across disciplines to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for living on Mars. This requires a deep understanding of each other’s fields, effective communication, teamwork, and thinking outside the box.
Additionally, designing for Mars poses unique challenges and constraints that require creative problem-solving. For example, the extreme environment of Mars means that structures and systems must be able to withstand high levels of radiation, dust storms, and temperature fluctuations. Designing for resource efficiency and sustainability is also crucial, as the materials and resources available on Mars are limited.
Finally, the course also challenges students to consider the economic and business implications of living on Mars. Students must assess the cost and feasibility of their designs, as well as potential revenue streams and business models for supporting long-term habitation on the planet.
The “Mars Studio” project challenges students to design innovative and habitable shelters for human beings on the surface of Mars. The students devised innovative solutions, drawing upon multiple disciplines, including architecture, engineering, and space science. Some of the unique design solutions that students presented include:
- Sustainable and resource-efficient building techniques: Students explored ways to construct habitats using locally available materials, such as regolith and ice, to reduce transportation costs and minimize the environmental impact of building on Mars.
- Closed-loop life support systems: The students designed systems to support human life in a closed environment, including recycling water and waste and generating oxygen through plant life.
- Social and psychological factors for long-term human habitation: Students recognized the importance of addressing the social and psychological factors involved in living on Mars, including social interaction, mental health, and the need for privacy.
- Advanced technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence: Students explored the use of cutting-edge technologies in their designs, including 3D printing to construct habitats, robotics for maintenance and repairs, and artificial intelligence to optimize the use of resources.
- Energy solutions: Students designed a range of solutions to meet the energy needs of human beings living on Mars, including solar power, wind power, and nuclear power.
Overall, the students deeply understood the challenges in designing habitable shelters for human beings on Mars. Their innovative design solutions reflected a commitment to sustainability, efficiency, and the effective use of resources. The designs they created have the potential to significantly impact the future of space exploration and habitation, as well as inspire new ways of thinking about sustainable design and living on Earth.
Our planet has several potential benefits based on the innovative solutions developed during the “Mars Studio” course at the American University of Beirut. For example, sustainable and resource-efficient building techniques, local materials, and closed-loop life support systems could significantly reduce our environmental footprint here on Earth. Additionally, considering social and psychological factors for long-term human habitation and incorporating advanced technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence could have practical applications for improving living conditions on Earth.
Furthermore, the successful completion of this project and its recognition by NASA JPL could lead to future collaborations between academia, industry, and government agencies in developing innovative solutions for space exploration and human habitation. This could result in advancements in propulsion systems, life support systems, and radiation shielding, which could significantly impact space exploration and various industries on Earth, such as transportation, energy, and healthcare.
In terms of ROI, the “Mars Studio” course has the potential to generate a substantial return on investment in several ways:
- The development of innovative solutions for space exploration and human habitation could lead to the creation of new industries and the generation of new jobs.
- Incorporating advanced technologies and sustainable practices could lead to significant cost savings in various industries, such as construction and energy.
- Collaborations between academia, industry, and government agencies could create new intellectual property and the licensing of existing technology, leading to potential revenue streams for all involved parties.
The journey of the students’ final product was far from over. In a move that would ignite a spark of excitement and awe, the Chairman of the prestigious Harvard Aerospace and Defense Alumni Organization (HADAO) took charge and personally delivered the materials to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. As he met with the Associate Director, he eagerly showcased the students’ impressive work. The Director’s eyes lit up with intrigue and fascination, and he couldn’t wait to delve deeper into the project’s innovative design solutions.
The teaching style and approach of the Mars Studio course at the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture was focused on integrating technology, design, and business to create a well-rounded and innovative learning experience for the students. Led by Professor Karim Najjar, Dr. Raffi Tchakerian, an industrial designer and instructor, and Maher Ezzeddine, a visiting lecturer and consultant on the integration of the business into design and technology, the course aimed to prepare students for the challenges of designing functional components of future beyond Earth habitats.
The teaching style emphasized hands-on learning and encouraged students to take the initiative and turn their ideas into inventions. Students were exposed to various topics, including space innovation, rocket launchers and landers, the use of appropriate materials on Earth deployed to Mars, and studying the Mars environment. Additionally, students were taught the economic sense of their projects concerning finance and innovation from a business world perspective.
The instructor’s approach in this course was to create a challenging and engaging environment that encouraged creativity and innovation. By integrating technology, design, and business, the instructors provided students with a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues involved in designing for space exploration. The course was designed to push students to their limits while providing them with the support and guidance they needed to succeed.
The final product and images of the student’s work remain part of the American University of Beirut and the students’ intellectual property. They are not to be disclosed in any form on this particular project webpage.
All images provided on this page are generated by Artificial Intelligence Software and are solely for promotional purposes (in the form of artists’ impressions), and are the exclusive property of HADAO. Any unauthorized use, reproduction, or distribution of HADAO’s images is strictly prohibited and may result in legal action. HADAO retains the right to enforce its intellectual property rights indefinitely.