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Made in Brunel: Rethinking product design for life on Mars

The First Martian

Humans as interplanetary species may seem like a science fiction concept, but thanks to a renewed drive from the private and public sector to send humans to Mars, it could become a reality within the next few years.

And considering that some of our everyday objects have more than a century of industrial design and development behind them, we should probably start thinking a lot more about designing for Mars now, says Brunel University London student Samuel Haughton.

After working with the design team at Mothercare during his placement year, for his final BSc Design Engineering project Sam set out to design a childcare product to protect the first babies born on the red planet.

Confident that people will be living on Mars by the mid-2030s, Sam explains:  “My final ideas and prototype still require significant development, but this project is ultimately designed to both raise public awareness about Mars and space exploration generally, and to challenge people’s perceptions of what product design can and should extend to.”

After research into Mars’s toxic atmosphere, high humidity levels (particularly at night) and reduced air resistance, Sam’s project continued with a look at existing American and Russian space suits, including the NASA Extravehicular Mobility Unit which is flexible enough to be worn for up to eight hours without irritation.

The NASA suit used for the last 25 years consists of 13 fabric layers which could be adapted to form the basis for a fabric ‘capsule’ inside a 3D-printed pram.

The NASA system includes a thick neoprene layer coated with aluminised Mylar and layers of Kevlar, Gore-Tex and Nomex, providing temperature control, and resistance to punctures, water and fire, then a layer of Dacron to hold the suit in shape, an airtight ‘bladder’ to keep the suit pressurised, and a soft layer of nylon tricot to space the astronaut’s skin away from technical materials.

Sam’s pram body consists of a large 3D printed plastic band wrapped around two sections holding the layered fabric capsule in place, allowing the pram to be adjusted to expand lengthways as a small child grows. Parts are created using the plastic Acrylic-styrene-acrylonitrile (ASA), which is UV resistant.

All functions have been designed for a parent to use one-handed or without hands at all, and the legs and wheels of the pram can be folded at an angle to turn the buggy into a rocking cot.

The pram concept features large wheels inspired by the NASA curiosity Mars rover, with a depth that helps prevent the pram sinking into sand and a bi-directional tread giving it grip in both directions. The hub of each wheel connects to the tire via several leaf springs, giving the pram independent wheel suspension – handy for rocky, uneven terrain. Digital testing showed that the wheels should be able withstand the weight of the pram in Martian gravity.

‘The First Martian’ will be on display at Made in Brunel, a student led collaborative platform focused on showcasing good design from Brunel University London

The Made in Brunel exhibition runs from 15 – 18 June 2017 (11am-6pm) at the Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, London.

Free tickets can be booked at madeinbrunel.com

Follow @madeinbrunel for more information and updates

Reported by:

Sarah Cox, Media Relations