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Catalan researchers lead project selected among the finalists of the Mars Society competition to develop a city on the red planet

  • The Mars city proposal is led by researchers from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC) at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB).
  • The project is one of the 10 finalists, selected from more than 175 proposals submitted to the competition.
  • The final presentation will take place on 17 October 2020, with the event being streamed around the world via Facebook live.

What would a city look like on Mars? How would trade work? How would the urban population evolve? An international group led by catalan researchers imagined the Mars city NÜWA, detailed in a comprehensive project that includes scientific, engineering, architectural, economical and social aspects. The project proposes not only a feasible urban design, but also a socio-economic development plan, as well as high-level descriptions of the industry, infrastructure, generation and distribution of energy and services needed to make it a reality.

Artistic representation of a dome on Mars that would be part of the SONet’s Nüwa concept. Domes and other solutions are needed to provide work and live environments for humans and human technology on the red planet. Image credit: ABIBOO studio / SONet (Gonzalo Rojas)

The project of the international team “The Sustainable Offworld Network” (SONet) has been selected as one of the 10 finalist proposals in the Mars City State Design competition of the Mars Society, the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organisation dedicated to the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. The competition is focused on developing a city of one million people on Mars in a sustainable way.

The proposal is led by researchers from the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia (IEEC  — Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya) at the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE, CSIC), the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB), together with other research centers throughout Spain, including the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM, CSIC). Participants from other countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany, USA and Argentina are also part of the team.

The finalist projects, selected from over 175 proposals, will be publicly defended on 17 October 2020 at the Mars Society Convention. Five proposals will finally receive an award. The defense will be public and shared via streaming around the world via Facebook live.

The SONet proposal consists of a 20-page long report with a conceptual design combining a wide range of aspects, from space exploration to sustainability. The city, called NÜWA in honour of the Chinese goddess who created humanity, symbolises the beginning of a new era of our civilisation on Mars and the protection that must be ensured in such an inhospitable world.

“The proposal is an effort to combine many disciplines in a way that is not usually done in space projects” explains Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Ramón y Cajal researcher of ICE and coordinator of the team. “In addition to scientists and engineers, we wanted from the very beginning to incorporate experts in other disciplines and from outside the academic sector.” The collaboration includes, as a very important contributor, the architecture and design team ABIBOO studio.

The project was forged during online meetings in April, May and June 2020 in the midst of the confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the proposal has borne fruit. “Reaching the final is already a great success for the whole team”, explains Miquel Sureda, lecturer of aeronautical engineering at The School of Industrial, Aerospace and Audiovisual Engineering of Terrassa (ESEIAAT- UPC). “We hope the competition will provide us with the visibility we need to gather support and develop concepts related to both space and sustainability, and the necessary transformation of the productive system that we must also face here on Earth”.

The director of the Institute of Energy Techniques – UPC and co-author of the initiative, Ignasi Casanova, explains: “Performing these exercises also makes us realise the great dependence we have on what our planet gives us in return for nothing. For example — he adds —  the production of food requires a huge amount of energy that here on Earth comes from the Sun, but which involves the use of large arable areas, and it is therefore one of the more aggressive human activities towards the terrestrial ecosystem”. Issues such as the use and abuse of plastics, construction and material solutions that minimise the intensive use of energy and total recyclability have also been studied in the proposal.

“In reality, the Earth is just a place in a vast Universe. If we learn how to create societies with closed resource circulation, which do not critically depend on remote imports to another planet, we should also be able to solve many of the problems we have on Earth today”, concludes Anglada-Escudé.

The presentation will be broadcasted on Saturday, 17 October 2020 at 22.00 (CEST), via ‘Facebook live’. Viewers must register for free to the 23rd Annual International Mars Society Convention, here:

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