Designing spaceships to travel to distant worlds

Kate Green (Kate Greene)

This is the sixteenth report on a project on modeling of human presence on Mars called HI-SEAS.

On Tuesday, the crew of mission HI-SEAS for the first time in four months go outside without protective training suits. On our cheeks sparkle with the wind, the fresh air will fill our lungs, and if the weather is good, sunlight will Shine on our faces. We return back to planet Earth.

But before returning there was one interesting thing. Paradoxically, we in the conversations deviated from the earth and even from Mars. We talked about the fact that you will need for the construction, management and life on a spaceship, which will travel to the nearby stars, and which some generation will change the other, because the flights of this kind will last hundreds of years.

These conversations inspired us primarily the commander of our crew Vermeulen Angelo (Angelo Vermeulen). Angelo from Belgium, he is an artist, biologist and researcher space systems. He firmly believes that the legendary the starship enterprise from “Star trek” was basically wrong.

In his view, long-term space flights will require a different approach, which is very different from predstavlyaetes series Gene Roddenberry’s (Gene Roddenberry). Instead of formal aesthetic and a paramilitary command structure on starships of the future will be primarily deeply be combined three fundamental systems: technical, social and biological. Most important, says Angelo, elements of these three systems have to design their future changes and optimization.

See also: ISS – Dorm in space

Among other things, this means that the material components of the ship, his life-support systems, as well as the behavior of the crew and subsequent culture must live, breathe and ultimately to develop as a whole. According to Angelo, this design will make future ships more resistant to any conditions which they may encounter during the flight. Referring to two concepts such as system integration and capacity development that should be considered in the design process, Angelo declares that the ships of the future and the people inhabiting them to enjoy for hundreds of years.

Adaptability of space ships

The usual engineer all this integration and sustainability can seem very distant future. In the end, adapted to the development of a system just beginning to emerge.

One simple example of such solution can be found in the function of the auto-correct on the iPhone. A program designed to facilitate text entry on a small touch screen due to the insertion of a whole word before it is printed so that types in an incorrect word and places message senders in a very awkward position. The designer of the spaceship should avoid these unreliable algorithms.

But Angelo is quite optimistic about what is needed for spacecraft of complex and adaptable systems can be invented in the near future. And he is not alone in his conviction. In the upcoming month in Houston will host a Symposium titled “hundred year starship”, which will gather scientists, designers, engineers and artists to discuss all sorts of difficulties technical, social and biological nature, which may face those who build spaceships and live in them. In the discussion at the Symposium that will be agriculture, energy systems, and the evolution of culture and management, which, of course, will have consequences both at home and aboard spacecraft.

Also: In flight to Mars the excrement of astronauts will protect them from radiation

Art with a purpose

For Angelo the concept designs of star ships — it’s not just talk. He made a career designing, building and managing complex projects that combine technical, social and biological side. As an artist and Creator of installations, he heads Biomodd art project in which a group of hackers created from waste hybrid plants and computers. In these systems, heat-absorbing algae circulate through the tubes and cool computer processors with video games. Each Biomodd project reflects the culture in which it was created, from Ohio to the Philippines and new York.

In another installation art project called Seeker Angelo worked together with groups from Belgium and the Netherlands on the creation of habitable prototype spacecraft for long flights. These projects were created on a voluntary basis ships had a unique cultural impact in the countries in which they were built. For example, food plants in the ships were selected, grown and collected for food by local artists. And in all cases the end of the installation is actually not the end. Details of the ship remained, and then was revived in new projects Seeker, or independent sculptures. In other words, they evolved.


In the project Angelo at the station HI-SEAS concepts are the elements of thinking of star travel. One of them is a model space of the farm. Being comfortable in our earthly habitat, we can care for plants in a distant garden, controlling it remotely via a robotic arm. A similar system can help researchers to Mars to grow vegetables in a freestanding greenhouse. Having some means of automation, robotic farm will provide travelers with fresh produce without taking up too much time astronauts.

See also: Space Ship Two began a hot life

Project cosmic farm operated for almost the entire mission. At this time, Angelo worked with our crew engineer Simon Engler (Engler Simon) and with a remote team, skillfully troubleshoot and solved many technical problems, working remotely. Like Biomodd projects, farm space missions HI-SEAS has been the fruit of collective work. Her goal was to eventually create a comprehensive mix of soft and viscous systems of plants and hard and high-tech mechanical system. This project is ongoing and after the mission Angelo is not going to wind it down.

Another project in the framework of the HI-SEAS has grown from a second dissertation’angelo (his first from the field of biology) at the technical University Delft in the Netherlands. It combines the interest of Angelo to the integration of technologies, biology and sociology. While on Board the HI-SEAS, each week we have been talking about personal resilience in the face of challenges of the mission, and also about our interaction with technology, the environment and our ecology of living together, or rather, lack thereof.

It was a very rewarding experience — get as the commander of the crew of artists and scientists. His view of the world definitely affect the mood on Board HI-SEAS, starting with the command structure and our conversations, and ending with the unspoken permission to be creative and analytical skills. Next week, when we will again enter the Earth’s atmosphere, we will return to their home planet with a different Outlook than at the time of departure. And I have a feeling that our stellar project-based thinking will haunt all of us on Earth.

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