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Journalist Report
Tereza Pultarova

It's time to expand the base

The first crew on Mars would have the most difficult task - confined
into a tiny habitable structure
with minimal personal space and only the most necessary facilities,
they will live and work
similarly to analogue crews at the Mars Desert Research Station.
However, they won't remain in these
ascetic conditions for ever. They will expand the base - to prepare it
for those coming next and
also to get more personal comfort.

Crew 135 commander and extreme environments architect Ondrej Doule has
come up with a proposal to
upgrade the aging Mars Desert Research Station structure not only to
make it more cosy and crew-
friendly, but also to enter the next stage of Mars colonization.

"First, we had to understand how the base is constructed and what are
the structures," explains
Ondrej. "That took the biggest part of the design inclusive mapping
all the layers of the metal
structures which are quite complex. Based on this information I am
proposing several upgrades."

First of all, he believes, comes personal space of the crew members.
It's understandable - they will
spend months, perhaps years living at close quarters. Chances are they
would eventually start
getting on each other's nerves - hence the need of sufficient private space.

Instead of the existing parallel chambers with alternate lower and
upper bunks (where one risks
crashing his or her head with every not-well-thought-through
movement), Ondrej proposes a concentric
layout with the bedroom doors opening toward a small newly created
circular hall in the middle of
the upper deck leading into the slightly expanded work area.

"These rooms wouldn't be larger than the existing ones but they
wouldn't be so thin and long, there
would be more open space inside and you wouldn't be afraid that you
bang your head somewhere. It's
really only the simplicity of the geometry," says Ondrej. "Also those
rooms are equal in size, there
are no bigger rooms and smaller rooms, which is the case now and the
now smaller rooms would be
bigger with the new concept."

However, the optimal solution, according to Ondrej, would be a bit
more ambitious. Instead of six
rooms squeezed one next to each other, he proposes placing only four
astronauts' bedrooms into the
main station building and connecting this area through a bridge with
another cell outside.

"This structure is elevated so you can have an ATV parking below and a
water tank above so you are
utilizing basically the water gradient," says Ondrej. "Another very
important structure would be the
emergency escape vehicle that would probably have the same size as the
MDRS, only that it would be
accommodating lots of fuel and escape pods, space suit pods for the
entire crew and a MDRS control
center that is currently missing."

In the case of emergency - such as a sudden collapse of the station's
life-support systems or a
biological contamination, the astronauts could run from the main
station into the escape vehicle
through an emergency bridge, taking off from Mars, leaving the station behind.

With a bit of luck, such a scenario would never happen, however, it is
better to be safe than sorry.
Ondrej's proposal includes also a greenhouse ten-times the size of the
current green hab, providing
space to grow enough plants to cover most of the astronauts' nutritional needs.

Using natural terrain geomorphology in the vicinity of the station,
Ondrej proposes building a space
port behind a nearby hill connected to the base with an underground tunnel.