A view of Nüwa City from outside of the port of entry. (Image credit: ABIBOO/SONet)
A planning team named the Sustainable Offworld Network (SONet) has submitted their plan for a new sustainable city on Mars as part of the Mars Society Mars City State Design Competition. This week architecture firm ABIBOO, based out of New Jersey, released visuals detailing what life may be like in Nüwa, the proposed first Martian city and Capital of Mars.
In a slick video presentation, the planners detailed life in full from economics to life support and even education. Living on Mars has to be approached from many angles in order to design a sustainable city and society.
The biggest hurdle identified by scientists to living on Mars is potentially deadly galactic cosmic radiation the planet receives at its surface. The city of Nüwa, along with its proposed sibling cities of Fuxi, Abalos, Marineris, and Ascraeus will all be constructed into cliffs at sites in the Tempe Mensa region of Mars. Building into cliffs as proposed will give these cities the radiation protection needed to allow humans to survive while also giving them access to green spaces and fresh harvests of crops and animals.
After overcoming the hazards of radiation, humans require sustenance in many ways: water, breathable air, food, electricity, and the like. The baseline for Nüwa City is to be a completely closed self sustained society. As such, after initial construction and staffing, the infrastructure is designed to run with minimal additional material from Earth. Energy production will take place primarily on the surface above the cliff city, on the Mesa area.
The Mesa area will consist of a field of photoelectric and solar concentrator arrays by which the city will convert sunlight into energy. There will also be power available through the use of a nuclear plant a safe distance away from the cities. The Mesa area will also consist of the domes used to house the food production greenhouses. These will be atmospherically separated from the rest of the city as most plant species benefit from higher CO2 concentrations. All work in this area will be accomplished tele robotically or by advanced AI controlled robots.
A result of these vast greenhouses will be the availability of pure oxygen to the city, and these will make up 90% of the oxygen recycling capability of the city, with the rest being provided in dedicated green spaces throughout the living and working areas of the city.
Speaking of working, the economy of Nüwa will be based on the idea of providing your worth in services equalling .12 CU a year (CU=city units, a unit that equals all the means and materials to transport a single person into a city). The first jobs will be in robotics and AI programming. Production of 0.12 CU per year per citizen will provide for exponential city growth over a short amount of time. The payoff comes in dividends in an amount of micros (a smaller spending currency) provided to all shareholders in the city (all citizens). Micros can be spent on goods and services in the city itself or to open one’s own business.
One of the keys to this city plan is the fact that it is scalable. As colonization begins and perhaps only a few hundred people are on the planet, much less space and resources will be needed. As such, the city will be constructed vertically inside of the cliff and consist of Macro Buildings which can house us to 4,440 people each in 6 working and 6 housing modules. Each macro building is designed to be self contained with connections to surrounding buildings and transit/infrastructure access. By building these as necessary to maintain a burgeoning population, the city will be able to start small and grow over time in a consistent manner. All byproducts of excavation will be used either as filler to act as a shield for other parts of the structure, or will be used in the production of metals.
Finally, their plan looks to the long-range growth of Martian society. What should education on Mars look like? The SONet team has an answer. The educational system on Mars will need to be able to rapidly shift to meet demands. As colonization is the building of a completely new society, it is expected that people on Mars will have families. In the Nuwa model, universal childcare is guaranteed and tied to an education system that seeks to develop children from the earliest ages into team players with the technical skills necessary to build and program robots and artificial intelligence systems. While technology will be the first major push, as needs arise the education system can quickly shift to develop new skills in the younger population.
As can be seen in their presentation SONet intends to make living on Mars both sustainable and exciting. Most interestingly, the maps of the macro buildings show areas dedicated to artwork. This is truly a remarkable idea and genuinely new in interplanetary travel planning. Most space exploration plans to date have taken much of the human element out of exploration. Even the Mercury astronauts famously had to fight with engineers and scientists to get a window included on the first US crewed space capsules. Of course the Cupola portion of the ISS is to date the most prolific gesture of humanity yet put into space. Putting places for what will be a genuinely new form of art in an all new place takes a leap of faith that is a breath of fresh air in a normally very stale scientific community.
Moreover, involving an architecture firm like ABIBOO lends to a more beautiful and practical design, instead of just stark practicality. The views they show throughout the video are phenomenal and lush. These could make even the most skeptical cynic wonder if such a wondrous future could be possible.