De­sign Out of This World

A glimpse at Mr. Xavier de Keste­lier’s de­sign for a hu­man out­post on Mars short­listed at NASA’s 3D Print­ing Cen­ten­nial Chal­lenge

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Some de­sign­ers cre­ate for the here and now while oth­ers take on imag­ined lives in space. Take ar­chi­tect and ur­ban plan­ner Mr. Xavier de Keste­lier, head of De­sign Tech­nol­ogy and In­no­va­tion at HAS­SELL. He is cur­rently un­der­tak­ing re­search with NASA and the Euro­pean Space Agency where his ex­per­tise in para­met­ric de­sign, dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion, com­pu­ta­tional de­sign, rapid pro­to­typ­ing, ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als, and the ap­pli­ca­tion of ro­bot­ics in de­sign are put to ex­cel­lent use.

A renowned aca­demic who worked on Ap­ple head­quar­ters, The Smith­so­nian, Mu­seum of Fine Art in Bos­ton, and Bei­jing Air­port, Mr. de Keste­lier has re­cently led HAS­SELL in NASA’s 3D Print­ing Cen­ten­nial Chal­lenge – to de­sign hu­man habi­ta­tion on Mars – where they emerged among the top 10 par­tic­i­pants.

Call­ing the Chal­lenge a “wel­come op­por­tu­nity to bring a hu­man el­e­ment into aerospace de­sign”, Mr. de Keste­lier points out that space ex­plo­ration de­sign em­pha­sizes max­i­mum per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency for tech­nol­ogy and ma­chines rather than for peo­ple. He es­pouses creat­ing an en­vi­ron­ment on Mars with high per­for­mance as well as com­fort and fa­mil­iar­ity for the as­tro­nauts. “It’s an en­vi­ron­ment where they feel safe and equipped to do the most im­por­tant work in the his­tory of space ex­plo­ration.”

For this project, HAS­SELL col­lab­o­rates with Eck­er­s­ley O’Cal­laghan to de­sign an ex­ter­nal shell, which could be con­structed en­tirely by au­tonomous ro­bots us­ing Mars’ nat­u­ral re­golith. The ro­bots would be sent in an un­manned rocket, pos­si­bly years ahead of the as­tro­nauts. The shell will have been

com­pleted when the as­tro­nauts land, of­fer­ing them pro­tec­tion from the harsh Mar­tian el­e­ments.

Once the as­tro­nauts land, they would rapidly con­struct the build­ing’s in­te­rior with in­flat­able ‘pods’ that in­cor­po­rate all the liv­ing and work­ing re­quire­ments for ev­ery­day life on Mars.

“Any­thing that can’t be built us­ing Mar­tian re­golith needs to be trans­ported with the as­tro­nauts; mak­ing the size and weight of ma­te­ri­als crit­i­cal,” says Mr. de Keste­lier. “With this in mind, we ex­plored mul­ti­ple types of ex­pand­able struc­tures that are com­monly used on earth to see how they might be adapted for use on Mars. We looked at every­thing from sports equip­ment to origami, to iden­tify the most ef­fec­tive struc­ture, with the fi­nal op­tion be­ing a mod­u­lar ap­proach.

The mod­ules that Mr. de Keste­lier de­signed are con­tin­u­ously ex­pand­able. “As soon as one is oc­cu­pied another can be added on. This cre­ates the po­ten­tial for on­go­ing ex­pan­sion and the cre­ation of a true com­mu­nity, rather than a se­ries of sin­gu­lar struc­tures.”

Sixty per cent of the de­sign should have been fin­ished by now, with the re­main­ing com­po­nents to be com­pleted by Jan­uary 2019 in time for the an­nounce­ment of over­all win­ners.


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