The habitat would land inside a crater 900m in diameter in the Deuteronilus Mensae region on Mars, where the geomorphology indicates large volumes of water ice in the regolith for many hundreds of kilometers abroad. The habitat would auto-erect on the dune field at the bottom of the crater and utilize a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator for power and heating.
The habitat would be a deployable geodesic dome with a tensegrity configuration and an origami deployable membrane for an expandable inflatable interior. The ultralight deployable tensegrity endoskeleton would allow the structure to bear large loads such as hanging infrastructure and ISRU radiation shielding that an inflatable alone couldn’t. Three of these habitats each capable of deploying to 37.5m in diameter could be stowed inside a single fairing of a Falcon 9 rocket for transport. (SpaceX’s BFR would increase the max dome size to 67.5m) After landing the dome would auto-erect by pulling the dome’s tensile members, tendons, taught with a set of embedded servos that would guide and lock the rigid compressive members, struts made of telescoping tubes, into place, giving the dome a 12.5m diameter ready for inflation. The dome would then seal its three doors and slowly inflate with breathable air at 1atm of pressure using the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Equipment, MOXIE, on board, giving the dome its spore-like shape.
Inhabitants could then occupy the dome and begin designing and fabricating the growing infrastructure with materials ultimately captured from the Martian atmosphere. The inhabitants would extract water from the the ice-rich regolith of the crater’s slopes for drinking and the cultivation of plant life. They would cultivate algae hydroponically to convert carbon dioxide and water into cellulose, while producing oxygen and recycling nutrients in the process. The cellulose would then be harvested and processed into biopolymers that could be 3D printed into strong lightweight interlocking units with organic forms generatively designed with evolutionary algorithms. The inhabitants would assemble a large ultralight centrifugal aeroponic greenhouse by assembling large 3D printed rings that would stack on each other and be suspended from the ceiling and spun to reproduce Earth’s gravity on Mars for high plant yields and health.
After filing the dome with living quarters and laboratories, the dome can be expanded by autonomously pulling the tendons in the telescopic struts to increase the size of the dome up to 3 times its diameter (37.5m) and 27 times its initial habitable volume. As the dome expands, the origami membrane unfolds until all the faces of the dome are flat. The growing interior and low Martian gravity gives the inhabitants ample room to expand their infrastructure up to 7 stories and diversify their living space while continuing to add aeroponic rings to the suspending greenhouse. By assembling spaces along gently sloping multi story spiral ramps, the inhabitants can continuously grow their infrastructure as a nautilus grows its shell. The flexibility and contractibility of the corridors that connect domes allow their expansion while remaining connected.