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Mars Habitat Design Challenge

NASA plans to fly astronauts to Mars to establish the first colony on Mars. NASA will need to build a home for these astronauts on Mars. To accomplish this, NASA needs to ensure that they create conditions on Mars which would support human life.


In this activity, you'll learn about the challenge NASA has to protect astronauts from the radiation on Mars. Then, you'll get to design your own Mars habitat which would protect an astronaut from radiation.

Learn about NASA's challenge to protect astronauts against radiation on Mars.

See a Mars' habitat concept from NASA.

Videos courtesy of NASA

 Design Challenge
Create a Mars Habitat
Mars Habitat 1.jpg

Image courtesy of NASA

Audio Instructions

Build and design your own Martian habitat that provides protection against solar radiation. The sun's radiation is more powerful on Mars than on Earth.  In this design challenge, your astronaut will be represented by an ice cube.  Protect your "astronaut" from solar radiation by placing the astronaut in your custom-designed Mars habitat.  Use aluminum foil on the outside of your habitat to reflect the sun's radiation, then use insulation (like bubble wrap, foam/packing peanuts or newspaper),  inside of your habitat. 

Place your Martian habitat outside in direct sunlight to see how long the astronaut can survive inside. Check your astronaut every 20 minutes to see if it has melted. Once the ice cube in your habitat fully melts, look at the levels below to classify your habitat. Feel free to redesign your habitat so that the astronaut can survive longer inside.

Temporary Habitat:  "Astronaut" survives for 20 minutes

Short Term Habitat:  "Astronaut" survives for 40 minutes

Long Term Habitat:  "Astronaut" survives for 60 minutes or longer

Sample Materials (but feel free to design habitat using safe materials of your choice):

  • Paper/Plastic Cup, Water Bottle, or any Other Small Container

  • Plastic Wrap

  • Bubble Wrap, Foam/Packing Peanuts or Newspaper

  • Tape

  • Glue and/or glue stick

  • Scissor

  • 2 or more Ice Cubes of the Same Size

  • Aluminum Foil

  • Paper

  • Paper/Plastic Plate or Tupperware Lid or similar

  • Printable Cutout Sheet for this Activity (found at the bottom of Cosmoto's Week 1 Site Page)

Sample Design

Feel free to add onto this design, or design a completely different Mars habitat that protects from the sun's radiation!

Step 1

Wrap the inside of a cardboard container with insulation of your choice, such as bubble wrap.  Cut the insulation so it fits inside.

IMG_1453 2.JPG
Step 2

Wrap your container in aluminum foil.  Insert your ice cube(s) into the container. If you would like to test how astronauts would survive without a protective habitat, place the same number of ice cube(s) that were in your habitat on a separate dish.

Step 3

Place your Martian habitat in direct sunlight. You can also place the cutouts (from the printable cutout sheet for this activity) in front of your habitat.  Place the separate dish containing the other ice cube(s) also in direct sunlight.

Step 4

Decorate your habitat to look like a Martian home. Check on each ice cube every 20 minutes to see if it has melted. See how long your "astronaut" can survive inside your Mars habitat!

Step 5

Compare your ice cube(s) in your habitat to the ones on your dish.  If your ice cube(s) inside your habitat last longer than the other ice cube(s) on your dish, you were successful in simulating a Mars habitat that provides a layer of protection against the sun's radiation!

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