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It is evident that in-situ habitation is intrinsically wired in our DNA: human’s earliest ancestors utilized the abundance of natural shelter and resources our Earth offers, and many continue to do so today. In the modern pursuit of extraterrestrial colonization it is critical that we apply these evolutionary principles to define new and unique living parameters in otherworldly environments, Mars in particular. This ideology of a human relationship to place is what shaped Below Freezing, a future society that inhabits a terraformed subterrestrial Mars though the use of in-situ resources, trends of contemporary technology, and the awesomeness of the native Martian environment. The idea is simple: use megalithic 3D printed ice structures to seal off subsurface lava tubes from Mars’ harsh surface conditions, hence promoting a potential underground ecology in stark contrast to the world above. From there it is likely that human and plant inhabitability can on take various forms within a controlled, oxygen-rich, earthlike environment.

While seemingly hostile terrain above ground prone to intensive solar radiation, colossal dust storms, micrometeorite showers and surface temperature fluctuations of up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit daily, the underworld of Mars instead hosts an expansive network of habitable tunnels carved by prehistoric lava flows, providing a stable and protected environment for potential human colonization. Skylight penetrations through up to 30’ of regolith offer comfortable amounts of natural light, and it is likely that the lava tubes comprise soil rich in water-ice left in the wake of the planet’s violent volcanic past. Martian lava tubes are clearly an optimal siting for future human inhabitants of mars, just as the earliest humans inhabited the natural shelters and caves of earth.

In continuing an in-situ approach to Martian colonization, it is crucial that Mars’ first inhabitants tap into the wealth of natural resources that the red planet has to offer. In particular, Martian soil comprises of extensive amounts of subsurface water-ice and gypsum-rich regolith. Paired with contemporary trends in 3D printing technology, robotic autonomy and genetic bioengineering, these resources can be utilized for nearly all of our construction needs in sealing off the lava tubes to create and maintain a pressure-stable environment for both human and plant life.

These variables set the design parameters that shape a new vernacular native only to Mars. The architecture is used not just as tool for subterranean human survival, but further as a demonstration of the beauty of design in a smarter world which knows no prior human intervention, benefiting from the lessons learned over millions of years of human evolution and mistake. Below Freezing serves as a platform for terraformation research and extraterrestrial lifestyle, and allows itself potential for expansion within the vast depths of the Martian underworld. A livable, underground ecology is an essential milestone towards the common vision of a planet-wide terraformed transformation. By developing an earth-like habitat, lush in vegetation and natural light, it is likely that Below Freezing will serve as a space that not only supports life but also a rich lifestyle worth enjoying.