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Ikea sets up house in Mars simulation for small-space ideas

Ikea designers are headed to a Mars-style habitat on Earth for insights on how you can better decorate your cramped living room.

The Mars Desert Research Station could teach Ikea designers a few things about space -- and small spaces. 

Ikea's mission: to boldly take umlauts where no umlaut has gone before.

The Scandinavian furniture chain is headed to space -- or at least to an environment that approximates a spacecraft, the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. There, a handful of Ikea designers will think up ways to make a Mars habitat feel more like home.

The designers will spend three days at the facility for a mini-version of the MDRS' "Mars Training Program," which prepares real astronauts for life far away from the flat-pack furniture of Earth. They'll go through the program with space architect and NASA consultant Constance Adams. 

"We're basically completely isolated for three days to get a taste of what astronauts go through for three years," Michael Nikolic, creative leader of Ikea Range and Supply, said in a statement this week. "It's almost like that misery you feel when you're out camping." (Of course, we can all agree camping would be far less miserable with an Ektorp sofa decorating the grounds.)

While Ikea designers dispatched to the desert hope to share their insights into what makes a place, or a planet, home, Ikea isn't yet planning to design bookshelves for the Red Planet. It does want to further explore design options for small-space, urban living, and may use that knowledge for an upcoming collection.

"When you design for life in a spacecraft or planetary surface habitat on Mars, you need to be creative yet precise, find ways to repurpose things and think carefully about sustainability aspects," Nikolic said. "With urbanization and environmental challenges on Earth, we need to do the same."

I, for one, can't wait for Ikea's new cratered Görlöse throw rug. And should Ikea decide to get into the Mars-furniture biz, it probably shouldn't wait too long. If Elon Musk has his way, Earthlings could be opting for a planet with a thinner atmosphere and shorter lines this century.  

Crowd Control: A crowdsourced science fiction novel written by CNET readers.

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