In a bid to prepare astronauts for the challenges they may face on Mars, space agencies have been submerging them in swimming pools to simulate outer-space environments. Taking this a step further, Danish firm SAGA Space Architects has designed an underwater habitat (UHAB) to mimic the living conditions of extraterrestrial habitats in which astronauts may one day reside.
The UHAB is intended to accommodate up to four trainee astronauts for over a month at a time, anchored to the seabed throughout the duration of their stay. Similar to the structures that may be constructed on the moon or Mars, the UHAB will be airtight and self-sustaining, providing astronauts with a realistic experience of the physical and psychological challenges of living in such confined spaces on other planets.
The final four-person version of the UHAB is scheduled to be deployed in European waters in 2026, making it available for use by organizations like the European Space Agency. With a floor space of 10 square meters (108 square feet), the structure is crushproof down to depths of over 10 meters (33 feet). Additionally, the UHAB can be utilized by biologists and oceanographers for studying the marine environment.
SAGA has already successfully tested a one-person demonstrator version of the UHAB. Just a month ago, company co-founder Sebastian Aristotelis spent 48 hours in the 1.5-square-meter (16-square-foot) structure at a depth of 7 meters (23 feet) on the seabed near Copenhagen.
“We validated a lot of our ideas and learned things we couldn’t have predicted – such as the fact that thermal insulation, which is a closed cell structure, compresses so significantly at a higher pressure that it tears the interior fabrics apart,” Aristotelis explained. “We did see some shrinking in our tests, but experiencing it inside was a great intuitive understanding of the forces at play.”
The UHAB project holds great potential for future astronaut training and research. By creating a realistic environment similar to that of Mars or the moon, astronauts will gain invaluable experience and become better equipped to handle the physical and mental challenges that living in such confined and extreme conditions may present.
This innovative underwater habitat contributes not only to space exploration but also to marine research. Its versatility enables biologists and oceanographers to conduct studies and gather valuable data on the marine environment. Ultimately, the UHAB could serve as a multi-purpose structure, fostering collaboration between different scientific fields.
As space agencies continue to work towards human missions to Mars and establish a sustainable presence on other celestial bodies, the UHAB provides an invaluable tool for training, research, and advancement in human space exploration. With its ability to replicate the conditions of extraterrestrial habitats, the UHAB brings astronauts one step closer to conquering the challenges of life in space.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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