Living On Mars: MIT Team Takes Top Prize In Martian City Design Contest

In this handout illustration provided by NASA/JPL, an artist's conception of the Phoenix Mars Lander on the Red Planet. Phoenix is slated to land on Mars on May 25, 2008. Launched in the summer of 2007 the lander will join the twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity and will study whether permafrost could have supported primitive life on the planet. NASA/JPL via Getty Images

One day people may live on Mars, but what will their habitat look like? According to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the future Martian city will rely on a lot of trees.

The tree-inspired concept—called Redwood Forest—took the first place prize in the architecture category of the 2017 Mars City Design competition, reports. In the NASA and European Space Agency sponsored contest, the Ivy League team created a sustainable urban space that astronauts and other pioneers may one day call home.

"On Mars, our city will physically and functionally mimic a forest, using local Martian resources such as ice and water, regolith (or soil), and sun to support life. Designing a forest also symbolizes the potential for outward growth as nature spreads across the Martian landscape," MIT postdoctoral researcher Valentina Sumini, who co-led the project, said in a statement. "Each tree habitat incorporates a branching structural system and an inflated membrane enclosure, anchored by tunneling roots."

The domes or tree habitats would be large enough for 50 people to live inside of them. In their blueprint, the team of nine students proposes about 200 of the structures would be built, providing shelter for 10,000 people, according to Futurism. In order for the environment to thrive, one key ingredient is necessary: water.

"Every tree habitat in Redwood Forest will collect energy from the sun and use it to process and transport the water throughout the tree, and every tree is designed as a water-rich environment," George Lordos, a doctoral student who worked on the project, said in a statement. "Water fills the soft cells inside the dome providing protection from radiation, helps manage heat loads, and supplies hydroponic farms for growing fish and greens."

Lordos also notes that solar panels would play a vital role in providing energy on the Red Planet, especially if dust storms were to hit. Their blueprint could also help us Earthlings too, the designers report. In particular, they believe the tree domes could help people living in high latitudes and deserts, among other places.

The Mars City Design contest seeks to explore feasible options that humans could potentially thrive in.

"Survivability is no longer enough. If the human destiny is to become 'a multi-planetary species' and the technology is making it possible, it becomes urgent to responsibly design the destinations that are out of this world, sustainable and contributive to the present Earth," Vera Mulayni, Founder and CEO of Mars City Design, said on the competition's website.