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back to article Engineering students design tent for camping on Mars

Student engineers in the States say they've built the perfect tent for camping on Mars. The inflatable habitat podule is apparently radiation-proof and tough enough that pesky meteors simply bounce off it: and it features a lightweight Sabatier reactor capable of producing water from the Martian atmosphere. "One of the big …

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Does this mean that...

The first few hours of a Martian expedition will consist of two people wrestling with a collection of assorted aluminium poles, material and tent pegs, while their companions stand around offering "helpful" advice.

Any news on the compulsory disposable barbecue yet?

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Now can we get it built and tested please

This is a refreshing alternative approach to the bulky and expensive bio modules spread over various deserts around the world, it is this sort of innovation that will get us to the stars, brute force just simply is not going to work.

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Re: Now can we get it built and tested please

Bah! it's just publicity, with storm gusts approaching 400mph and meteors smashing into the planet hard enough to put debris on earth one has to wonder if anyone is taking mars seriously.

No, this sort of innovation will not get us to the stars.

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physics watson

"storm gusts approaching 400mph"

The destructive properties of the atmosphere rely very much on its density AND speed. A 400MPH gust in an atmosphere much less dense than earths will do very little damage, for instance the mars rovers didn't, strangely enough, look like earthside storm chaser vehicles;

http://blogs.discovery.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/04/05/rear_tiv2_3.jpg

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YcG_S02akO4/TWO-itmshOI/AAAAAAAAAa4/vsjlXuxC3UI/s1600/nasa_mars_rover.jpg

Guess which one is the mars rover!

"meteors smashing into the planet hard enough to put debris on earth"

The point of a mars habitat isn't to provide protection against any possible danger, sure a meteor that created the a crater like Agassiz and sends debris high enough to escape martian gravity isn't going to be stopped by any cloth habitat, in fact by ANY habitat at all. The habitat has to be light enough to be transported and strong enough to protect against minor dangers, much like an earthside tent won't stop a falling tree or a grizzly bear, but millions of people still use them instead of hauling around armored steel boxes, I wonder why?

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Re: physics watson

>>The destructive properties of the atmosphere rely very much on its density AND speed. A 400MPH gust in an atmosphere much less dense than earths will do very little damage, for instance the mars rovers didn't, strangely enough, look like earthside storm chaser vehicles;

And that's exactly the kind of thinking we need to avoid, yes 400mph gusts of thin atmoshpere won't do as much as a thick atmosphere (although, a large tent will suffer more than a small tent, and they are proposing a large tent), but once you start getting dust in that it changes the situation completely, it takes far less energy to pick up dust in a thin atmosphere and dust storms will require the same maths as standard fluid dynamics, the rover being a small chunk of metal will act more like a rock than a tent; the atmosphere can easily go round a rover.

Put a small pebble into a river and once it hits the bottom it's unlikely to move, put a larger, lighter, less dense object in and it's more likely to move, remember that the force applied will be directly proportional to the area exposed.

>>The habitat has to be light enough to be transported and strong enough to protect against minor dangers

You're not getting the point, if people were in a tent on Mars, there are no MINOR dangers, it's not like a camping tent, oooh... slight rip, might get a bit damp, it's oooh.... slight rip, might get dead.

Look, it's simple, the real problems of getting to Mars involve getting to Mars, a biosphere able to support people for the journey of months with little or no maintenance requirement, we really are not anywhere near there yet, but what we can do is design and build sturdy habitats well in advance, we could design and build heavy lift craft, send unmanned lifeboats, automated assembly, self sustaining recycling units, maybe even grow plants or fungi based food, get it all ready, maybe, just maybe a light habitat as an emergency shelter if the final manned landing is too far from the industrial units.

In addition, there's a lot of fuel and spacecraft needed to leave Mars (I assume it's not going to be one-way), logically you should prep this in advance too, unlike the moon lift off the gravity will be much harder to escape from (and landings are much harder), again this needs to focus on getting large amounts of "stuff" to Mars.

Sorry, I know you want this to be a good idea, but it really is insignificant and your enthusiasm for it won't make it any better. Is this research pointless? well, it solves no issues and creates new ones, i.e. there is no reason to cut down on weight (as there's plenty of time to get it ready, decades in fact).

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Anonymous Coward

RE:

You assume no testing was done on the aerodynamic qualities of a dome shaped habitat. This article incorrectly calls the habitat design a "tent." It is, in fact, an inflated fabric-based dome. It is very aerodynamic, much more so than any current designs featuring rigid structures. Also, the materials used are very high-strength materials such as Vectran and Demron. Vectran is similar to Kevlar but it's stronger. Both materials are bullet proof, like Kevlar, so unless there was a very large meteor (which would kill them regardless) this isn't an issue. The dome is nearly 8 inches thick.

As to advantages, weight was not the principal focus for improvements. With a rigid solid structure habitat the size is limited by the size of the spacecraft carrying it. Therefore you limit yourself to using several small interconnected pods, rather than one or two larger spaces. This isn't an ideal environment to stay in for an extended amount of time.

With a fabric based habitat, it's volume in transit is much lower than it's volume on the surface. This allows you to have much larger living spaces.

Furthermore, the atmosphere on Mars is .5% Earth atmospheric pressure. So ANY habitat with breathable environments on the interior (no spacesuits inside) must be pressurized. This pressure differential is MORE than adequate to hold up the weight of the dome structure, thereby eliminating the need for "tent" supports, and making the set-up a breeze. (see what I did there?)

This was not a NASA sanctioned project, so this isn't NASA PR. We're a student design team. NASA invited us to present our project at one of there innovative tech conferences, but they did not solicit this article.

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Impressed

While I realise that this kind of story is heavily loaded by the NASA PR machine, it's quite an achievement if it really works.

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Carry on...

We got to get there first!!!

VW camper van gotta get you there first, even before the tents erected!

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Anonymous Coward

Does it have...

...a picture of Dora the Explorer(TM) on the side of it?

Because bloody everything else does!

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Camping fees?

I'm awaiting the news that one of those nutters who 'bought' land on Mars is levying a camping fee on all Martian tent users.

Obviously the Spaceballs winnebago is the best way both to get there and to sleep in once you've arrived.

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wilful intent

The fee collector is a native chappie - goes by the name of Marvin.

He has a ray gun and is not afraid to use it (but has a lot of trouble with Wabbits and 'Duck Dodgers of the 21st Century')

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Alien

Duck Dodgers...

.... was, of course, in the Twenty Fourth and a Half century!

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Alien

Martian campsite fee collector

"He has a ray gun and is not afraid to use it ..."

Not to mention that he's also developed the Eludium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator.

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Alien

And for the kids

an inflatable bouncy castle?

Seriously though, nice idea!

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Terminator

Its always the same when you go camping.

You pitch your tent only to find you are 55 million km from the nearest toilet block!

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Anonymous Coward

Re; 55 million km from the nearest toilet block

Never mind, just go behind a tree.

Oh...

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"...just go behind a tree..."

...or, in this case, our campers would have their choice of several dozen really big rocks.

Besides, don't forget; since the Gemini days, spacesuits have what's delicately termed a "biomedical pouch".

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No need to drink your own urine?

Bear Grylls will be upset!

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Eh?

Why wouldn't the astronauts simply take up residence in the abandoned cities?

IMHO "Brent" would have more luck pushing his Martian Camping Gear if he changed his name to John.

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Tents on Mars?

I think I've seen this before somewhere - perhaps it's just Dejah Thoris.

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How are they going to combat the wind?

Have they tested the fabric to stand up against the hurricane force wind and all the debris that comes along with it?

Wouldn't it just be easier to build down?

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Combat the wind?

No doubt they'll just avoid bringing any baked beans along with them...

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Mars moles?

Easier to build down? How long does it take YOU to dig a house-sized hole? The guy I asked estimated a few days with a backhoe, depending on the dirt. Our best guess is that Mars has a few cm of sand, then rocks. I'd love to try laser drills, though!

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