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Pre-study for the human mission to Mars





Flight Crew Support Division at the NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, USA


Janis Connolly, Barbara Imhof


The BIOPLEX project entails the designing of the underdeveloped habitation chamber and overall programming of NASA’s full-scale, integrated test facility conceived for future space exploration and long duration missions for up to 425 days.  A design proposal was made for the restructuring of NASA’s existing facility consisting of five identical modules including the habitation chamber, laboratory, life support systems chamber, and two biomass production chambers and their connection to one another through tunnels and an airlock mechanism.

NASA’s BIOPLEX facility anticipates a future mission to Mars which undeniably requires a sustainable and viable means to human life support which will be highly reliable and operable over long periods of time.  A complex biogenerative life support system is conceived by NASA technicians, using a combination of higher plants, microorganisms and physicochemical processes to recycle air and water, produce food and process waste with a minimum supply of external resources.  Additionally, the potential for automated food production is planned.

Barbara Imhof, in conjunction with this facility, looked closely at the relationship of modules to one another in terms of use value and function and at the space allocated for living and working.  The project addresses the close relation of architecture and psychology and provides a detailed design for enhancing the performance, well-being and interrelation of crew members.

Design considerations

  • 2 story structures will increase height and provide space for larger maintenance equipment
  • Flexible, moveable walls will provide different opportunities for using space
  • Galleries are provided to create greater visibility and perception of a more generous space
  • Relocation and redesign of existing staircase will permit improved  interrelationships within space
  • Moveable (bin) storage will be integrated within the habitation module
  • Moveable (box) storage will be integrated within the connecting tunnel
  • To reduce waste, eatable plates are conceived as a food type
  • To eliminate completely internal stair and replace with a continuous floor
  • To provide light-weight building components which permit crew members to construct individual habitation chambers
  • To provide a slanted floor to gain volume in some areas and create a change in perceptual space
  • To reconfigure the volume allocated to each of the 5 identical modules
  • To integrate different programmatic functions within a module



images courtesy of NASA