Learning from Mars; Or, Facing our Shit
The intent to inhabit Mars carries many self-contradicting intentions, especially given our clear plan to extract Martian resources, domesticate the planet, and transfer the ideological framework of establishing territory in a newly found space free from jurisdiction. To that end, research into sustaining human life on Mars is highly problematic. Interplanetary habitation is arguably an escape from Earth. The latent narrative is defeat; that is succumbing to the climate crisis, while making alternative plans for a selected privileged population. Nevertheless, research into life on Mars forces us to face our shit on Earth, where resources for sustaining all forms of life have been abundant. Not until recently have we been mandated to consider their finite worth or replacement, or deal with the excessive waste we generate as a by-product of our daily production processes. On Mars, where every resource for sustaining life is precious and rare within a fully enclosed life support, waste becomes integral to our survival. This view from afar, in the words of Claude Levi Strauss, changes our viewpoint on how to retain and recycle waste. Arguably, it is not only insightful for Mars-based habitats, but also for helping in altering daily patterns of dealing with waste and the climate crisis on Earth.
This article presents LIFE ON MARS, a research-design project investigating closed-loop life-support living systems for Mars as giant living machines of ingestion and excretion. It is neither a complete project, nor a ‘solution’ to extra-terrestrial inhabitation. LIFE ON MARS looks at the minimum use of in-situ resources avoiding extraction, as well as the regenerative properties of Earth-based biology and our ability to engineer and tinker with resources through the field of synthetic biology. The project also brings to light emergent forms of habitation in extreme interiorisation and the problem of sustaining life in a sealed interior when the exterior world becomes prohibitive. In this format, it is presented as an inquisitive visual narrative, which raises both existential and scientific questions for further exploration.
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