Right now miles above us an astronaut will get into bed on the International Space Station. They’ll send a few messages to friends and family on their laptop, zip themselves into their sleeping bag and fall to sleep floating. It’s meant to be really comfortable to float whilst sleeping.
An astronaut’s bedroom on the ISS:
We thought looking at what an astronauts bedroom looks like right now would be a good starting point for designing a future Martian bedroom in our house. So for workshops we recently held at Science Center We The Curious, we built a replica of a bedroom on the ISS. Our replica is the exact same size as a bedroom on the International Space Station. It’s small. If you stand inside it with arms outstretched you could easily touch both walls. It looks more like an office than a bedroom, with a laptop, torch and not much else in it. It’s a bit like a Japanese capsule hotel – almost like an extreme version of what a future bedroom could look like, with mostly only practicalities considered.
The Capsule Hotel, Tokyo:
This is what our replica ISS bedroom looked like:
We used it as a conversation starter – by looking at this strange version of a bedroom people had a lot of opinions about whether this kind of bedroom would suit them or not, and what they would like a bedroom in the future to look like. People also left comments on the outside of the box about what their bedrooms on Earth are like, what objects in their bedroom are important to them, and whether or not they share their bedroom.
Some people compared specific experiences they had that felt a bit similar. One woman took part in a 2 month round the world boat race. She shared a boat with a crew of 16 people and only had her bunk bed for a small private space. Another man spoke about being posted in a military role in the desert in Oman, living in a small portacabin in otherwise deserted surroundings, making phone calls home.
Mars will be completely different to the ISS. There will be gravity and so a bed will be needed to lay down. But we won’t be able to take much with us from Earth. Each item in the bedroom and the other rooms will have to be carefully chosen. Value will have to be assessed on what needs the item fulfills, and whether or not these are necessary. Building our version of a Martian House is an opportunity to re-imagine what purposes rooms like bedrooms have, and to make the most of the design, considering how can the design of this private space play a role in good mental health.
With that in mind, during our workshops a lot of people spoke about senses and colours. ‘It needs to be tactile, a place where there are soft materials and comfort’ one woman said about the bedroom. ‘Blues and greens, colours of Earth’’ said one man loudly before his wife said ‘pastel colours’ would be the best for her bedroom on another planet.
Some wanted VR of Earth or just a picture of the landscapes of Earth on the wall. And these are conversations that we have heard before. That the bedroom on Mars should be a place to escape the harsh realities of living on Mars, to create a place that reminds people of nature and Earth. This does make sense, until someone spoke about it from a different view point.
One woman said she thought the most important thing about living on Mars would be embracing where you are. Not building everything to be a memory of Earth. She spoke about how this related to her thoughts on ageing – how she can’t do all the sports she could once do but instead of dwelling on it, she looks at what she can do now.
She spoke about how her husbands job had been to drive coaches of elderly British tourists around Europe. She said that they went to Europe but that they wanted everything to be just like home. They wanted their hotel to be like a hotel in England even though they were somewhere foreign. They wanted to look out of the window and see Europe but not really to be in it. She wondered whether we needed to be careful not to make our Martian House be all about Earth. This seemed like a really good point and a good thing to keep in mind when designing our house. It needs to be a balance of things from Earth but not just a place to pretend to be on Earth, or to live in a bubble.
During the workshops we had live illustration from Andy Council to document ideas – here’s a few images from the giant drawing he produced throughout the day.