These Designers and Engineers are Preparing Humankind for Life in Space

There’s been a recent spike in interest for private space travel now that the potential concept has become more of an approaching reality. With SpaceX aiming to begin manned missions to Mars as early as 2022, we’re closer to traveling to the Red Planet than ever before, and with scientific findings and research that show signs of creating a habitable environment, the possibilities are endless. This new territory has sparked some serious inspiration in a number of designers that have been conceptualizing and sometimes creating everything from fashionable and functional space suits to special 3D-printed living quarters.
From Elon Musk to IKEA, these designers and space enthusiasts have been on a mission to equip humankind with futuristic tools, habitats and clothing to live out of this world…literally. Check out some of the innovative designs below.

SpaceX Spacesuit presented by Elon Musk

Elon Musk—engineer, space enthusiast and founder of electric car brand, Tesla—previewed the very first SpaceX Spacesuit on his Instagram, which shows a minimalistic design. The spacesuit, according to Musk’s caption, “actually works (not a mockup),” and has “already [been] tested to double vacuum pressure”. The image shows a minimal white spacesuit with grey contrast panels and piping. An American flag is the only apparent marking, appearing on the right shoulder.

The Galactic Everyday by Christine Lew

Central Saint Martins graduate Christine Lew designed the Galactic Everyday collection to help humans carry out normal, everyday tasks once they relocate to Mars. A suit to bathe in, a vacuum-suctioning dressing gown and a temperature-regulating duvet feature in the collection, which was developed following discussions with peers and space experts.

Flight suits by Clément Balavoine

French designer Clément Balavoine created these flight suits specifically with SpaceX travellers in mind. The microgravity environment of space means that astronauts’ bones become more fragile, and muscles lose mass – something that will affect those making the trip to Mars, expected to take 80 to 150 days.

Balavoine proposes his company SpaceX adopts these space suits to prevent that from happening. The suits are precisely tailored and support the musculoskeletal system through fabrics with electroactive fibres.

“Martian concrete” by Northwestern University

Northwestern University researchers came up with a construction material that combines Martian soil with molten sulphur, which they claim could be used to build an entire village on Mars.

The most important feature of the material is that – unlike regular concrete – it is produced without water, which is in scarce supply on Mars. Most water on the planet today is frozen. Another advantage of the material is that it it entirely recyclable, so it could be melted down and reset into a new form.

Space Cup by Portland State University

Named best product at 2016’s Designs of the Year awards, the Space Cup was invented by Portland State University researchers wanting to give astronauts in space an earth-like drinking experience.

As water droplets and spillages can cause major problems in space, drinks are normally contained in a sealed bag and sipped through a straw. By contrast, the Space Cup is an open vessel engineered to drive liquid towards the mouth, helping to bring a touch of normality to those on long stints in space.

Mars habitat by Foster + Partners

Foster + Partners also submitted a design to NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, although its concept focused on the architectural potential of semi-autonomous robots and regolith – the loose soil and rocks found on the surface of the planet.

The concept involves parachuting three different kinds of semi-autonomous robot onto the surface of Mars: one that can dig a crater for building around, one that processes the regolith to create layered walls, and one that uses microwaves to fuse the material in place.

AD Martian collection by Ma Yansong

This furniture by architect and MAD founder Ma Yansong is designed to be used when humans colonise Mars. The starting point for Ma was to question what would happen if human beings moved to Mars, and whether the furniture they take with them could inspire a love for both their new and old homes.

Inspired by 20th-century science fiction, the collection comprises a dining table, chaise lounge chair, candlestick, console table and floor-to-ceiling lights.

Soot Home Grieving Set by Franziska Steingen

German designer Franziska Steingen’s Soot Home Grieving Set addresses a less utopian scenario in Mars travel – what happens if one of the astronauts dies during a mission? To help their family back on earth mourn the loss, Steingen imagines a new ritual involving the burning of the deceased’s personal property.

IKEA x NASA furniture for micro-living

At IKEA’s Democratic Design Day earlier this year, the Swedish furniture giant revealed it was working alongside NASA to figure out how interior spaces might be designed for life on Mars, and how they could make the planet feel like home to those who would live there.

The results are yet to be revealed, but given the high-profile organisations involved, the collaboration is being eagerly watched.