NASA have been running a competition, “The X-Hab Challenge,” between engineers to find a suitable flexible dwelling-cum-vehicle for the Martian surface. The NASA guidelines for the competition(pdf) lay down a number of criteria which basically simplify to the following requirements:

  • hard-shell prototype habitat
  • inflatable loft to deploy from hard shell
  • room enough to sleep four
  • reconfigurable as a “crew gathering” or “group meeting” area

The winning design will be put into extensive testing by NASA and might just wind up on its way to the Moon or Mars one day.

It is pretty foolproof really. The design has proved itself useful, rugged and versatile over many years, and, although the air-cooled engine may require some tinkering if it is to work properly in the thin Martian atmosphere, I think it should serve as a comfortable base from which to conduct a mission.