Mars in Hawaii

There is an article in today’s Guardian (which oddly doesn’t appear to be available online) by Sheyna Gifford, a medical doctor who was one of six people who spent a year in the caldera of a volcano on Hawaii simulating life on Mars.The article first caught my eye because it said that one of the sextet was an architect, although on closer inspection this turned out to be a space architect.

Anyway, Gifford is fascinating about their time living in a white dome and donning space suits every time they went out. The experience was as much about psychology as technology. Gifford had to use her bedroom as a consulting room (note to architect – private space may be needed?) and learnt a lot about how you look after people when there is little equipment available.

There was a 20 minute delay on all phone calls, so getting outside advice in an emergency wasn’t an option. This is really humbling about how much or little architecture can do. It has to work, and it has to be fixable with minimal equipment when things go wrong. After that it is all about the people.

But is that white, futuristic-looking dome (albeit a vision of the future from 40 years agon) the solution? Gifford isn’t so sure. In a blog post she argues that digging caves might be a better approach. There wouldn’t of course be any windows. But technology could solve that with clever projections. Cave dwellers? Enhancing their lives with IT? Mars may really be back to the future.

Ruth Slavid

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