Jason Kring teaches “Human Factors” at Embry-Riddle Aeronatical University and he has inherited one heck of an RV rehab! Jason said,
It already looks like a space station.
He and his students plan to convert a 1976 Airstream into a simulated Red Planet habitat for future astronauts. That’s right, RVs on Mars! So, come with us and check out this Mars Simulator RV.
Professor Kring is using an Airstream to build a Mars Habitat Simulator.
Kring inherited the project from a 30-year-old former student who now works for NASA. The trailer was purchased for $9,000 in 2013 as part of a thesis project, but the Mars Simulator RV idea turned out to be too big for one student to complete.
Professor Kring with his Mars Habitat Airstream.
The twenty students have until July to retrofit the airstream with living quarters for up to four astronauts. In addition to sleeping quarters, the airstream must contain shower facilities, a serviceable kitchen, experiment work station and more.
Kring has ambitious plans for the Airstream Mars habitat. Four students at a time will inhabit the RV for up to five days to simulate the stresses of deep space missions such as Mars colonization.
We want to have a facility where you can simulate a space mission. I can bring four people into my lab on campus and I could lock the door and tell them they are going to be here for six hours and play around. That’s not very realistic. What happens when you are in a very tight space with three or four other people for a long period of time? That changes the psychology of the mission.
Of course the Airstream will never actually see the vacuum of space, but with NASA planning missions to Mars, many people are thinking ahead to what actual Mars habitats will be like.
One of Kring’s students has spent some time in Utah at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS).
ERAU Students working on the Airstream’s flooring.
The trailer has been gutted and is in the process of being refitted from the skin out. Students will be hands on through the entire project and involved in decision making as well as labor.
Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, believes the future manned missions to Mars will be working with what he terms the “Mars Direct” settlement approach, in which astronauts use the Martian environment itself to provide essentials for long term living.
The Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.
The idea was a small crew on these kind of preplanned set of missions that would allow astronauts to get there and have a functioning habitat in place. We approached it from the idea that it’s there and ready to go, and they [the crew] just have to land.
Kring’s crew is modeling their work off a similar program run by NASA, The Human Exploration Research Analog or HERA. NASA is working with teams of four inside a 148 cubic meter environment, where long term experiments are conducted to study human interactions.
Larry Toups, who leads habitation systems with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Texas had this to say about Kring’s efforts to build a Mars Simulator RV,
I’ve heard of a lot of people using Airstream trailers as a place to live. I’m familiar with Airstreams, but never for a Mars analog mission. It’s definitely an interesting concept.
We think so too. In fact, we are wondering if these propane tanks could be retrofitted as rockets to get the project off the ground? Whatever the case, future generations of Mars explorers would certainly enjoy their time on the Red Planet if their living quarters resembled an Airstream’s interior!
Students eying propane tanks for use in their Airstream rehab.
While NASA and Embry-Riddle are far from the only groups planning for future Mars travel, this may be the only Mars Simulator RV to date. We found a link on Space.com to nine super cool Mars Mission simulations. Enjoy!