Nüwa, designed as first sustainable city on Mars, hopes to serve 1M people
19:08

Nüwa, designed as first sustainable city on Mars, hopes to serve 1M people

Science
So the ability for humans to survive on Mars depends on finding solutions to four key factors, infrastructure, sustainability, life support and shelter. So that a team of international academics and scientists and a booth studios and architecture firm believe they crack the code and submitted plans to the Mars society for new one The first proposed city to be built on Tempe Mensa, Mars. With current Mars missions researching the potential for life on the red planet. And commercial space travel just on the horizon. An experimental city on the red planet seems like the next step. Now what? [BLANK_AUDIO] Joining me today is Dr. Joe Salah detrol, a researcher at the University of Stuttgart in Germany. Thank you so much for joining me today. Thank you for having me today of course. So what exactly do you do at the Institute of Space Systems? ->> We have been working for several years on looking how we can use micro algae to support astronauts in space. So micro algae same as higher plants produce oxygen. Biomass from the CO2 that the astronauts exhale. So they could also be used in long durations famous space missions to produce the oxygen and have the biomass as food supplement for the astronauts. We've been working on lab research analyzing different parameters which type of life which type of nutrients, Which reactor system should we use? And we sent an experiment to the International Space Station a couple of years ago to actually try this hardware that we design in space. That's incredible. How did you feel about NASA's perseverance rover being able to convert some of the atmosphere on Mars into oxygen? That was a very important step that we will need for the future human exploration mission. So it was only a first step, we're still not able to have a full system to support humans. But it was a step that is really necessary. And it was a very exciting moment to see that this technology could be tested in situ on Mars. This was a really exciting moment. So tell me about numa. [BLANK_AUDIO] NUWA is a project we started in these network SONet. The goal of our network is to look how future habitats could be Other planets and we are a group of engineers but also architects, biologists, people from different fields looking at the same problem from all perspectives possible, and we had the opportunity to participate on the Mars society competition last year, and the goal was to build a city for one million people on Mars, and that sounds a little bit crazy, one million people on Mars, we still haven't seen a single one, so it was a real challenge. Ad For us, so looking at how the city should be built but also how it could grow. We shouldn't imagine that we will send 1 million at Mars at once. We will probably start with a small settlement. And the city would have to grow slowly. So we work for several months. Looking at all the problems that we had to face on Mars. There are several issues from radiation, to providing all the food and oxygen that the people living there would need. But also looking at how to use the resources on Mars. Starting from where would our city be located? Which different locations we could have. So it was a big challenge for us to look at the problem from all possible perspectives. We had to actually design a city that is Sustainable but also that is realistic with the technology that we have today. We didn't want to design something crazy with technologies that we would just made up. We try to focus on things that already exist either today or that Are being researched now so it even if it's very futuristic to think about 1 million that it states as realistic as possible, and tell me about the location temper Mensa on Mars, why exactly did you pick that place to to build this proposed city It's not only temperamental in total, we have five cities and they would all follow the same building principle. We are built on tunnels in an inner cliff and the five cities give us this access to the different resources. There's one city located quite north on the pole. Where we would most likely have access to water and the others are also located for different resources in situ resources utilization. So how are you involved in the project? What was your role? I was responsible for the life support system, so making sure that the people could actually leave or survive on Mars, making sure that they had the atmosphere they required inside the city. They had all the foods that required that all the waste that was produced is 3d so it can be reconverted in new fresh food, oxygen, and also the water. So the main three things food, water and oxygen needed to be provided all the time. We have to take care of the CO2 that it does not accumulate. We are used here. When a room air gets too tight, we open all the windows and get fresh air that's not a solution. On Mars, we have to have a closed habitat where the humans will live. It can be very big and spacious, but at the end, it's a closed Play so, we have to make sure that we have air circulation and regeneration of the air. So, taking care of all those elements to make sure that the people can actually survive inside the base. Let's talk about the construction. Can you tell me what some of the construction materials are, what the city will be will be made up So the most important thing is probably the concept by itself. One of the problems we have living on Mars is radiation here on earth were quite good protected from from space radiation, thanks to our magnetosphere, so we'll have some material protecting us. We decided not to do that underneath the surface option because at the same time that would completely insulate us from sunlight. So we went for something in between not being completely on the open which will be would be very dangerous regarding radiation. But we had a system built in tunnels. So we have some indirect light arriving to our system and we still have this protection being inside the rock. And that means at the end of what we have to do is not build high high buildings as we do here on Earth. But the other way around we have to take material out of the the rock out of the cliff to build these tunnels that we are going to build and we try to find if If those materials are available on Mars, from the data we have available of course. And if not, which options could we use instead, so trying to find alternative materials to compensate what we can or we cannot have. One good example for that is looking at solar energy we want to have, we want to use solar energy on Mars. And for that we can either use photovoltaic panels or we can use solar concentrators. photovoltaic panels are more efficient, but they're very hard to build on Mars with the materials. We have there. So, we would go then for a system with some portable type but more solar concentrators because those are the ones that we can more easily build on Mars in situ. It sounds like the city will be almost completely self sufficient without needing to draw resources from from Earth is that the goal? Since the beginning, we of course have to first do the first step and bring things to Mars. But the the long term goal is that it's completely independent from Earth at some point. We cannot have 1 million people living on Mars and expect to bring water as necessary from Earth. That's that's we're going to an order of magnitude with 1 million people that It is not an option anymore. So probably the first explorers that will go to Mars with a small mission will still take almost everything from Earth. But as the city grows, it has to it has to be able to depend only on the resources. We have. Directly on Mars and recycling as much as we can, only recycling. All the ways that we humans produce, we should be able to produce enough oxygen water, and food to sustain the humans. We can close the cycle almost completely, and still, then just using some of the materials on Mars directly. It should be possible to have a sustainable City on Mars one day. How long do you think it would take to actually build new out where people could come and start living on Mars? ->>First of all, it would be a modular growth of the city we would not build the city all at once. So, we would expect to have the first people already living there even if the city is not really ready for 1 million people. So this modular approach is very important. Yeah, we had to make some some guesses here because we we cannot really we have not designed the city in that detail that it can be built tomorrow. So it's hard to say and put a timeline to it. But we guess about 50 years would be. The timeframe that we think it could be realistic. But of course, the more you go into a detailed design in the coming years then the more detailed It can also be but that's a first estimation of Yeah, order of magnitude, about 50 years. On to talk to you about food, crops and animals. How did new was Plans for food factor in like how are the resources going to be grown and raised on new? So here again, it was a very hard exercise to do because usually when we think about international space station we have technologies that are able to recycle water. Similar as we have here on Earth, and to produce oxygen, but we do not have systems that produce food. There have been some small experiments with some plans. But the food that the astronauts eat daily, it's always brought from Earth. And from Mars, that was not an option. We had to make sure that we were able to produce all the food in Situ on the Mars surface. So we had to go to a system that is very similar to our Earth, we need biological organisms that may lie do all the tasks that they also do here on Earth. We have trees that produce oxygen and they also contribute to water. We have water cycle here on Earth water, doesn't fly away or it doesn't disappear. And we have to think about a similar concept for Nova. So we design a system with a lot of plants with a crop so we have some called agricultural modules where we have dedicated areas of cultivation. And these plants will be the food for the citizens of Nova partially and will also take care of the oxygen and the water. So it's a full package, taking care of all the things where required. But we decided to build not only a model for plants, but we also had to think about other living organisms in our system because that's the important thing. When designing a city with so less resources we have on Mars we have to be efficient. So we cannot have very huge agricultural areas as we have here on Earth. We cannot have animals as crazy as we have here on Earth too. Fulfill, the desire of bids that we have here on Earth, we have to be efficient. So insects are one option that needs to be considered for a space mission as a very efficient way to produce high protein content that that was the main idea to have the crop to have. The algae to have the insects, maybe also other organisms like mushrooms should also be an important part or a small part, but very relevant for the diet to have at the end a balanced diet with everything that we humans require. And speaking of requirements, I was watching your presentation, the presentation to the Mars society that's on the newest page. And in their proposition, you were kind of figuring out what people would do on Mars like what the what the economic model would would be what the system of government would be, what people's daily lives would be on on Mars. Can you speak to that at all? Yeah, so once again here it makes a difference of what we're used to know, seeing astronauts doing experiments the whole day and doing outreach activities and going into that from 1 million people on Mars changes a lot of things. In a big city on Mars. We will require everything we will let people Working on all the things that we also require here on earth. We would have schools, we would have shops, we would have the people taking care of the food production. We could have people working on the construction of hardware, developing the city. The economy and the governance is a little bit tricky. We imagine it's going in different phases because at the beginning the city will be small and will still probably be quiet governed from from Earth itself. But as the city grows, it will become independent. It will start getting more and more independence from Earth. One important thing about Mars is that there's a communication deLay. So having a conversation as we're having you and me. Now, it's not always an option. There's there's a big delay depending on the position of the planets but it could take 20 minutes from my Boy signal to get to you, and 20 minutes to get your answer back. So that already creates some some independence from Earth. So the idea with the economy is that people would If you're going to live in such a city in Mars, it's gonna be your end goal living in that city. You're not gonna be thinking about coming back to Earth. That was the idea behind this there's no more concept. So people would leave everything on earth to go to Mars and with commit part of its time to the city to growing the city And in return of that they would get everything that they require to survive so they would get their place to leave a certain amount of space. They would get all the oxygen food and everything that is required for surviving to would not take your all your properties with you, you would Probably sell your house to get the ticket to fly to Mars. And once in there you will have all the resources that you require in there and participate as a citizen on the development of the city. That's a very important thing this community feeling. Here on earth we can live very independently from each other, but Mars will have to rely on each other because the environment is very harsh and yeah, once again you cannot just open windows and. Go out on your own, or you would rely we would all rely on each other in such a harsh and isolated place as a city on Mars would be. So with the current missions to Mars, you know, NASA's perseverance rover, China's 10 one, one And the United Arab Emirates hope probe, do any of their discoveries or explorations? Will that shift the idea of what's possible on Mars?>> I don't think it will shift completely our plans. But all these missions will provide us with a lot of information that we actually require. We need to know exactly which materials can be found where. To be able to actually build a city like the one we have planned. We already have a lot of knowledge from from past missions on Mars, but there are still a lot of things we need to learn. So the more missions there are, the better our knowledge will be. The more precisely then we can design our city. What we have done is the very first preliminary design. And the more we learn from Mars, the more we can adjust it. I imagine construction of the city would cost a lot of money, didn't you? Or in your proposal, did you factor in how exactly. Construction would be funded or the city would be funded initially to be built. And no, we didn't we didn't look at that. Specifically, there would be a huge effort to start building the city of course, to bring in all the things that would require to start The idea is at the end. The growth of the city itself once the city has been starting to be built and we have already part of the city there. At the end we're using the materials from the place so we do not need to send money from Earth to Mars. What we need is energy. And at the end, it's all a question of energy. We need energy to extract the materials with energy to process the materials. We need energy to build the machines that can do all of that. So the thing that we looked at is the amount of energy that would be required to keep the city growing But yeah, of course, you first need to have the first solar power panels, or the whatever type of energy you're getting there at the beginning to start with. So, there is an initial cost of having a minimum base required there to be able to build the city. But, once his infrastructure is there, the idea is that it can grow from there with the things we have there. Like yeah, building the things that can provide us more energy, and with that growing the city. Is there anything else you wanna say about the project about Nuwa about the possibility for human habitability on Mars, or other planets, or just? Interplanetary exploration. Maybe just remark the idea of interdisciplinary and that we are a good example of that with a team with engineers with people working on mining because at the end we're mining materials on Mars having architects on the team All these disciplines are required. We need biologists that know about the plants and animals and everything we want to have on Mars. So this interdisciplinary work to put something like that together is something very important. It's a key element. And that's something we need to that's kind of an encouragement for everyone that it's passionate about space. Regardless of which field they are working, they can find a way to work towards this. Making a planet habitable or making a habit of the environment for humans to live anywhere. From all perspectives is again we need biologists we need engineers when it's all Disciplines that are required for that. That's I think it's an important message. Absolutely. And Okay, one last question. If the opportunity arises for you to have the option to live on Mars or another planet, do you think you will? Absolutely, because it is. It is an adventure. It is something, it's something new. It's something that allows us as humanity to move forward. Not just by the fact of one single person being in another planet but all that it requires all the technology Development that it requires and I wanna be part of it. I'm trying to do my part now with the researcher developing technologies. But if I had the opportunity to be the person going there and doing things with my own hands, I'll gladly do that that would be my part of participating in a different way than I am now.

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