Mars Garden Wins Gold
Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2007 on MarsHome.org
Imagine. You have established the first human settlement on Mars. All the essential features of the hab have been designed and built. You have organized the sleeping quarters so you and your team are able to rest in privacy. You have successfully tapped into a source of water. Mechanized processes are in motion, you hear the hum of robots creating masonry, cutting plastics and extracting chemicals from piles of Martian soil. Supplies are plentiful since the arrival of cargo the day before. Everything is great. Everything is going according to plan.
But, inside the hab, the smell of iron and sulfur on your hands, surrounded by plastic and aluminum, a deep feeling of homesickness and disorientation is distracting you from this historic achievement...
The human need for familiarity and aesthetic pleasures will be amplified for the first explorers of Mars, lack of which may cause depression, mental anxiety and physical stress. Primarily, this will cause problems for mission operations, but on a deeper level, rooted insecurities may cause irreversible damage to the embryonic Mars community.
At a time when basic human needs are being researched by the Mars Homestead Project™, a design of a Martian garden won gold at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in London last week. The annual event, organized by the UK's Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), is attended by the best designers, gardeners and specialists worldwide, so this award is especially significant for future manned exploration of the Red Planet. The designer, Sarah Eberle, created her garden ("600 Days with Bradstone" – named after the hypothetical 600 days of an astronaut's first mission to Mars and the sponsor, Bradstone) with the "psychological importance of man's relationship with his environment" in mind.
- "We had to make many assumptions, but everything in the garden is based on real science." – Sarah Eberle
The designer and her team researched the science behind future manned settlements on Mars and drew up a list of important characteristics a Martian garden must have. The team liaised with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the British Science Museum for eight years to arrive at a garden that could be worked into the design of Mars habitats considering the psychological effects of spending long periods in space. Assuming a domed structure, the garden features plants that will be familiar to the settlers to give them a "sense of home" and uses rocks similar to those that could be excavated on Mars.
- "You have to consider colour, water and plant longevity. Also, how would someone feel for 600 days in space? I thought the feeling of seeing something growing would be most important." - Sarah Eberle
Besides creating a refuge for the men and women in the Mars settlement, the garden may be used to cultivate food and provide water, all adding to the sense of well-being the settlers will need. In the long-term, life support systems will need to be supplemented or superseded by natural sources, therefore gardens such as this will be a vital addition to any hab to produce oxygen and other essential substances for use in medicines and construction (see Bamboo and plastic bench concept). The RHS award site states: "Planting has been chosen based on research that suggests the varieties could be grown on Mars; plants include, coffee, wheat and olive oil for diet and opium, poppy and aloha for medicinal needs." Luxuries such as chocolate may be synthesised by growing carob. Calendula - for color, nutrition and medicine - may also be produced.
An interesting addition is the water geyser in the center of the garden. Based on an Alaskan model, permafrost below the Mars garden will be gently heated, producing an up flow of liquid water. A fine mist will add to the scene and the up flowing water can be fed through a system of pipes, irrigating the garden. An aesthetically pleasing and practical feature.
- "It brings it all home why I go through this torture and pain, for such a sweet moment as this, I tell my daughters never to stop dreaming, because sometimes your dreams really do come true." – Sarah Eberle
Imagine. After a grueling day hiking over the alien landscape, maintaining mankind’s presence on Mars, you return to your hab exhausted. You enjoy a hot meal prepared from fresh vegetables and herbs. You make your way into the garden to relax and chat about the day’s events with your team, listening to splashing water and smelling the terrestrial flowers coming into bloom...