International Space Settlement Design Competition

Mars Areological Research Surface Utility Vehicle (MARSUV) Exercise

The following pages provide materials for a miniature version of a Space Settlement Design Competition scenario, in which participants design a vehicle for use in exploring the surface of Mars. This could be a design project for a small group, with a design process lasting as little as an hour, and concluding with a presentation about the design. It could be a competition lasting a few hours or half a day, with presentations by the competing teams and selection of a winning design. It is intended to be a small, self-contained exercise that can be conducted quickly and without additional reference materials. It is not recommended that these materials be used for a design exercise or competition lasting for a day or more; with more time, design teams can get into issues that require more extensive reference materials (e.g., daily quantities of food, water, and waste associated with humans; construction techniques and sources of materials; maps of Mars to determine likely terrain a surface vehicle would encounter).

The MARSUV materials provide information about infrastructure presumed to be available on Mars in 2051, and some examples of future technologies that may be available at that time. Background material about the customer organization is provided for context-why would anybody want to go to Mars, and how would they get the money to live in space? A list of Mars attributes summarizes some of the challenges associated with designing equipment to operate on the planet's surface. The final page is the Request for Proposal (RFP), or description of requirements that the customer wants the vehicle design to meet. The RFP is arranged to show how four engineering departments could divide the tasks to get the design completed. Note that there is some communication required between the groups handling separate tasks--the departments must communicate their work to each other so that the whole design comes together (e.g., Human Engineering determines requirements for water, Operations Engineering figures out how to provide it, Automation Engineering controls the recycling of it, and Structural Engineering figures out where the systems go in the design).

Remember, the primary reason for doing a design process of this type is to demonstrate techniques for managing a complex task in a short amount of time. It provides a means for developing team-building skills, and shows how tasks get accomplished in industry. Those are hard lessons to learn, but this is a means for having fun during the learning process!

The Customer

The Foundation Society is an organization founded for the purpose of establishing human settlements in space. Its first settlement became operational in 2025, and served as the construction base for the huge solar shield at the Earth-Sun L1 libration point. The solar shield succeeded in reducing sunlight on Earth by 0.5%, reversing effects of global warming that were predicted to have adverse impacts to the world's economy. The success of the solar shield resulted in enormous financial compensation for the Foundation Society, enabling it to pursue its goal to move increasing numbers of its members into space.

The organization now operates three settlements in Earth orbit and one on Earth's moon. Each settlement meets residential, business, and recreational needs of between 10,000 and 20,000 permanent residents. Each settlement also provides a unique element of infrastructure for human activities in space: a manufacturing and materials processing center (the "rust belt" of space), a financial and commerce center (a sort of "Singapore-in-Orbit"), a center for research and development of technology (the "Tech Torus", with tenants from several Silicon Valley companies, and the main campus of The University of Space), and a lunar mining and tourist center.

The Foundation Society was a partner in the five commercial Mars exploration missions that took place during the past decade. These missions studied only a few promising sites for mining operations, yet they showed that the abundance of resources on the planet has potential for providing materials for in-space construction projects at much less cost than Earth-based sources. Studies have only begun to address the economics of tourism, science, and inspiration for human creativity in the unique Mars environment. The Foundation Society is now committed to its own ambitious global survey of the planet, which will identify candidate sites for a future surface settlement. The Mars Areological Research Surface Utility Vehicle (MARSUV) will be a critical element of this mission.

The most important construction at Mars is a settlement being built in orbit above the planet by the Foundation Society. Partial operations will begin at this settlement in 2057, and the settlement will be ready for its permanent residents in 2063. The intent of this settlement is to provide a "Port of Entry" for Mars-a place where interplanetary ships will transfer their cargo to landing ships that deliver goods to locations on the surface. This settlement will also serve as a construction base for future settlements on Mars, and will serve as a supply and shipping center for mining operations in the asteroid belt.

Your Company

Marsotronix, Inc., was founded to conduct research applicable to commercial enterprises on the surface of Mars. It began its studies in 2007 as an entrepreneurial partner with NASA for missions to Mars, and has been involved in every commercial Mars expedition. It currently is headquartered in facilities leased from the Foundation Society's settlement on Earth's moon. The lunar location enables the company to test its products in a harsh space environment. Suppliers on the moon and at space-based materials processing and manufacturing facilities provide most of the raw materials and components the company requires for its assembly operations.

The company's early contributions to Mars missions focused on accurate and speedy data analysis to aid in planning of future Mars missions. As its experience, reputation, clientele, and revenues grew, it grew its business base to encompass more of the expertise involved with humans' relationships with Mars. Marsotronix built the surface structures for the first human crew that landed on the planet and conducted scientific research there. It designed the laboratories in use at the first permanent Mars base, and has had a role in each of the other two bases on the planet. Each base is little more than a collection of radiation-shielded shelters and small labs; due to their vulnerability to maintenance failures, Marsotronix provides a staff technician at each base, to identify maintenance and support challenges before they become emergencies.

The company is at the forefront of innovation for developing technologies appropriate for operations on Mars. It has created automated landing systems that can pinpoint a probe's position within a few yards; drilling systems that can recover soil, rock, and ice samples from 50 feet below the surface; and vehicles that can safely operate up to 40 miles from their bases. It developed the radio beacons that mark "roads" in the vicinity of the Mars bases; the beacons are placed every half mile and provide both navigational aids for vehicles and communications back to the base. Marsotronix designed the small rocket craft that, in an emergency, can get to almost any location on the planet to conduct a rescue mission, if a suitable landing area can be found.

The most ambitious project undertaken by Marsotronix is a fleet of cycler ships to provide scheduled transportation between Earth orbit and Mars orbit. These large ships will remain in their orbits, with only small adjustments to compensate for perturbations in orbital mechanics. Transfer ships will rendezvous with them in the vicinity of Earth and Mars (the Mars transfer ships will be based at the Foundation Society's Mars orbiting settlement), unloading imported goods and delivering export cargo for shipment. The first of these ships is completing its first cycle between the planets; others are under construction and will enter service during the next five years.

Mars Environment

Although considered this solar system's best opportunity for productive human settlement away from Earth, Mars in 2051 is still a very hostile place, at the frontier of human existence. The few score of human visitors have confirmed what robotic probes revealed near the end of the last century: it is cold, desolate, dangerous, eerily beautiful, and seductively beckoning humans to come and plant roots.

Gravity 38% of Earth's
Distance from Sun average 141.6 million miles (Earth is 93 million miles)
Minimum Energy Orbit Travel Time from Earth 259 days
"Windows" for Optimum travel from Earth about one month, at two-year intervals
Length of Day 24 hours, 37 minutes
Length of Year 687 (Earth) days
Diameter 4,218 miles
Surface Area approximately equal to Earth land area
Magnetic field insignificant
Atmosphere less than 1% of Earth's pressure, mostly carbon dioxide
Surface Temperatures average -30°; range from -100°F to just above freezing
Radiation Environment equivalent to interplanetary space from above
Weather Some clouds, winds to hundreds of miles per hour
Storms winds can cause months-long global dust storms
Seasons due to axis tilt and elliptical orbit, southern seasons are more extreme-southern winter is longer and colder; southern summer is shorter but warmer
Surface composition ample silicon, aluminum, iron, magnesium, and calcium
Resources concentrations and accessibility of ores and useful minerals similar to Earth
Water substantial quantities, mostly frozen underground in northern basin
Terrain primarily rocky plains, with plentiful quantities of very fine dust
Topography Large, deep basin in the northern hemisphere
Heavily cratered highlands in the southern hemisphere
Several very large and tall volcanic mountains
A few very large ancient river valleys, with steep canyon walls up to two miles high
Polar Caps northern polar cap water ice; southern polar cap mostly carbon dioxide ice
Moon: Phobos 13 miles across
Orbit altitude 5,800 miles from Mars center
Orbits three times per Martian day
Moon: Deimos 7.5 miles across
Orbit altitude 14,600 miles from Mars center
Orbits once per 1.3 Martian days
Hazards to Long-Term Operations Dust causes premature wear and breakdowns of mechanical equipment
Wind-blown dust at high speed has sandblasting effect on surfaces
Dust storms restrict visibility and reduce effectiveness of solar cells

For a good read with some great information about Mars, check out Kim Stanley Robinson's trilogy, Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars.

Request for Proposal


This is a request by the Foundation Society for contractors to propose the design of a vehicle to enable long-term surface exploration on the planet Mars, for the purpose of identifying candidate sites for a future settlement on the Martian surface.

Statement of Work

Basic Requirements - The MARSUV must provide a safe and pleasant environment for a crew of eight engineers and scientists to engage in exploration missions for periods of up to six months with no resupply or support. The vehicle will be designed to enable the crew to go out on the surface in space suits.

Structural Engineering Requirements

Operations Engineering Requirements

Human Engineering Requirements

Automation Engineering Requirements