• jacquelinebruce

Life on Mars?

One of the things I like about Sunday Brunch on Channel 4 is that they often have really interesting segments that are a bit different. On Sunday’s show, we were treated to a slot featuring Elly Watson, curator of the Moving to Mars exhibition at The Design Museum in London.

During the interview, Elly talked to us about what considerations had to be made in order for humans to be able to inhabit Mars. How do we design for life on Mars? How do we survive on the planet? How do we get there? And what might the future of the planet be?

One of the first questions asked by Tim Lovejoy, quite rightly asked, was, “Why do we want to go to Mars?” To which Elly replied, “I think basically we’re panicking about what’s going to happen to us here.”

“Call me old fashioned but we could just fix this one, couldn’t we?”

“We could but hopefully a lot of the technologies we would need for living on mars could be used on Earth.” And therein lies what this exhibition is really all about for me.

When people visit this exhibition they will ask the same question. They will think about why we need to go back to the drawing board when it comes to life on Earth, wipe the slate clean and rewrite the history books. That the solutions for life on Mars are no different to the solutions that we have here on earth already.

Closed loop system

But we have to get a wriggle on so that we don’t need to live on a planet that’s hostile, has no breathable air as there’s too much carbon dioxide, or where our muscles would deteriorate after a short period. Or where there is no water. Wait, are we talking about what life on earth would be like if we don’t act? Or are we talking about Mars? I’m pretty sure they’re interchangeable.

Of course, this was a description of what Mars is like. Ella informs is that there's no water there. So the only water would be what is taken there. And get this, the habitat on Mars would have to be set up to have a perfect closed loop system which, according to Ella is the hardest part of the whole mission. Ella goes on to tell us that, “it costs $18,000 per kilo to take stuff into space. You can’t bring much with you and anything that you do bring you need to be able to recycle it and reuse it constantly. Because it’s so expensive to bring things to Mars, you have to think cleverly about what you can use that’s already there.”

I don’t know about you but my question now would be, what is the cost to earth by not using stuff that is reused constantly? Extinction.


The feature also included a Hydroponic system that allows us to grow plants underground – already in use at an air raid shelter in Clapham. The system has nutrient rich water and plants absorbs as much as it needs (both water and nutrients). This means, no water waste and with LED lighting, only using energy as needed.

Clever design

Another exciting feature was the clothing by Raeburn, an innovative and responsible Design House in Hackney. The have designed and made a jacket out of a space blanket and breaking parachute. Because of the cost of taking stuff to Mars, the clothing has been designed from stuff that would otherwise be discarded on arrival, as it’s no longer needed, i.e. the breaking parachute. Clever.

With so much to do on earth, I have zero interest in money being spent on space expeditions. However, this exhibition provides an exciting way to engage people on what the change makers are already doing here on earth so that no one needs to move to Mars.


From the website...

What to expect

Step into a full-scale Mars home, immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of the landscape and learn how rethinking daily life for a zero-waste, clean energy-powered civilisation might help future generations on Earth.

Children born today are the first who might witness a human mission to Mars in their lifetime. It’s one of humanity's great challenges and everything will need to be designed – but should we even be going?

The exhibition features immersive environments, about 200 objects including contributions from NASA, the European Space Agency and SpaceX; NASA's 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge winners, AI SpaceFactory; robotic builders by Foster & Partners; the first sustainable urban design for Mars, Mars City Design; the first spacesuit designed for the Mars surface; Christopher Raeburn's new fashion collection inspired by the red planet and much more.”

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