Mars Exchange
Simulation Outpost Q&A with Kristian von Bengtson

Simulation Outpost Q&A with Kristian von Bengtson

by Natasha Schön on Friday, 28th November 2014 in Expert Opinions, Technology

Simulation Outpost Alpha will be Mars One’s first Earth based simulation outpost for training, technology tryouts and evaluation. In October we asked what questions you have surrounding our Simulation Outpost. We gathered your input and posed your questions to Kristian von Bengtson, Mars One's former Outpost and Capsule Project Manager. Here are the top questions and his answers! Additionally, check out the Mars One Simulation Outpost Alpha webpage for lots of other exciting information. 

How high will the ceilings be in the inflatables? I have this vision of hitting my head repeatedly, operating in the 38% gravity” - Dan Carey

Like you are saying, walking in low gravity requires additional height if you want to avoid hitting your head on the ceiling. There are basically two ways you can walk controlled in low gravity. Either loping, like it was seen on the lunar surface, requiring additional indoor height - or you can support yourself with hand rails walking more normally, as you do on Earth.

The interior design of the inflatables will likely support both ways depending on the functionalities or zones you are in. An empty inflatable has a diameter of 4.6 meters (app 15 feet) and depending on the floor level you get a relative free interior to do Martian loping. 3/8 gravity interior design studies are intended to be carried out - which can be simulated on Earth with suspended persons on angled flooring, like it was done by NASA in the 60’s for the lunar missions.

Although white is a nice color for graphics, I would imagine that a surface that absorbs as much sunlight as possible when the average temperature is -81F. Has this been considered?” - Don McCann

Colors for space systems must always be carefully considered since it’s a passive subsystem. The choice of color, paint type and reflection grade must be based on the mission scenario. The modules have to perform both in planetary transit, without any energy convection, and on the surface of Mars with some degree of convection due to the low atmospheric pressure. Depending on the total energy cycle of the outpost it must be determined if the modules should absorb energy or keep it out - avoiding internal overheating.

Will the training base simulate in situ resource gathering, such as gathering water from the soil, or other environmental challenges, such as dust storms?” - Chris Weeks

Mars One will be simulating as many scenarios as possible in order to prepare the crew for a one way mission to Mars. The technologies and events you mention must be experienced, thoroughly tested, and understood by the crew, either connected directly to simulation outpost or at another dedicated location.

This question is loosely related to the topic. I've been curious to know what type of furnishings would be available for the Mars colonists. With rocket launches, added weight costs thousands of dollars in today's terms and although something as trivial as a bed or mattress these types of things are a necessity. Crew comfort is going to be an extremely important part of keeping the psyche of the colonists healthy. Add to that: chairs, dining table, workbenches, etc… It's been suggested in the forums before about "inflatable mattresses and chairs" but those can only be comfortable for so long IMO. So I'm curious what type of ideas do you have to address this need with the design of the architectural layout of the outpost.” - Hampton Black

The question is not loosely related to the topic - its an essential question and I am glad someone thinks about this, so thank you! Designing the interior is a major and complex task and there are a lot of factors to consider. First it is important to make use of materials that are long lasting, easy to maintain, and clean, fireproof and non out-gassing. If you can add factors such as low mass and low volume during transit you might have something really interesting, but you might want to trade this for other functionalities.

The main living area will be inside the inflatables. These are empty volumes after inflation has occurred, except from potentially pre-installed wall dividers. Anything from flooring, walls, furniture, technologies and additional room dividers will have to be transferred from the capsule modules, where everything has been stored during planetary transit with limits to volume and mass, into the inflatable section. This is a very interesting puzzle to be solved. So basically, you have to install 200 sqm of living space with few parts “unfolded” from the capsule modules.

There are currently no specific designs using inflatable mattresses and chairs but the technology may be of interest, so let’s see. For now, it is very important to identify all individual and group needs, to turn those needs into a context for living.

How are you going to land these huge modules and manoeuvre them together, what about the radiation and muscular loss, due to lower gravity?” - Ronald Mallier

Landing modules can be done using a variety of already known technologies like heat shields, parachutes and retro rocket burns. The final procedure for the Mars One mission has not yet been determined. Before landing the modules, there will already be rovers on site who are capable of manoeuvring the dispersed modules in place and assemble the final outpost. The outpost will be assembled and functioning before any humans are launched from Earth towards Mars.

After landing on Mars, the astronauts will still have "super human strength" in the ⅜ gravity of Mars but muscle mass will likely stabilize to match the ⅜ gravity. From a working perspective you should be OK, since everything around you is equally less heavy.

What about water, food and waste?” - Carine Kbc

Water, food, and waste are all key elements of the life support system. On Mars, the in-situ resource utilization system will generate liquid water from the frozen soil of Mars creating a storage of several cubic meters at all times, supporting human and food production. As much water as possible will be recycled, but newly processed water will be added to keep the supply at maximum level since some water will be lost or contaminated.

The crew has to become self sufficient inside the outpost regarding food as soon as possible. The main source of food will be crops and insects to provide a correct mixture of nutrients and interesting recipes. Having ordinary livestock is not a viable short term solution. There will always be emergency rations that can help them survive even if no food grows until the next supply mission arrives.

There is a certain amount of waste generated by the human body, crops and from various technologies and processes. As much waste as possible should be recycled, such as waste water, gasses, etc. Depending on the final life support circulation there must be a plan to handle accumulating waste which cannot be included in future processes.   

What advice or training will you provide to prospective martians regarding their psychological health?” - Bryan Brouhard

The psychological well being of the astronauts is extremely important to maintain and is closely connected to physical well being. Besides general training to keep fit, there must be a wide range of recreational and creative stimuli for the astronauts such as book and music streaming, relaxation, and virtual functions for sounds and vision. Being creative with your hands is also a well known method of keeping people mentally happy and engaged - especially if it could be connected with expanding their base or settlement.

Other important factors to maintain good psychological well being are: hygiene, group dynamics, communication with Earth, stress handling, acceptance, engagement, future events, and balanced private/social activity. Being generally occupied with things that matter are probably the single most important way of keeping people happy and focused.

What's the square footage of living space?” - David Susko

The main living area, made up from two inflatables and two centered main modules, are approx. 200 sqm (app 2100 sqft) and will accommodate a crew of four. There will be one combined plan for the 200 sqm with areas for private quarters, social areas, recreation, science, crops/food production, mission control, etc. In order  to meet changing demands by the crew members during their life stages and mission status, the interior design is preferred to be flexible through its assembly structure.

Unique Mars One Outpost Concept Poster

Imagine how cool the hand drawn designs of this new Mars One Concept Sketch Poster would look on your wall! And there's more than meets the eye... the poster contains several hidden clues for future challenges!

Sign up for our Newsletter Close