Art Meets Space Travel: Illustrating Life On Mars

by Amy Finch

Artists met with University of Bristol academics on 18 May to explore the possibilities and challenges of humans living on Mars.

Ella Good and Nicki Kent are working on a ten year public education project, A Decade with Mars, which began in 2014 when they met a group of people intending to take a one-way ticket to the planet.

The ideas gathered at their latest meeting will feed into their plans to build a replica Martian house (here on earth), in collaboration with Hugh Broughton Architects, who designed the Halley VI British Antarctic Research Station.

“Everyone was really on board with the idea of it being a project that sits across art and science,” said Good. “It’s made us really enthusiastic about the future scope of the academic research feeding into the public aspects of the project.”

Martian House Brigstowe workshop illustration
Illustration of possible Mars house by Andy Council // Photo by Ella Good and Nicki Kent

Dr Lucy Berthoud, a senior teaching fellow in Space Systems, hosted the expert panel which included a botanist, an experimental psychologist and a geologist. Her own work has involved interplanetary spacecraft missions to Mars, Venus and Mercury.

“For me, what was surprising was the reminder that much of the technology we will need in space is very useful for energy-efficient zero-waste living on Earth: solar power, recycling of water and waste, earth bagging construction techniques,” said Dr Berthoud.

Many features of Mars pose a threat to human survival. For example, the thin atmosphere means radiation exposure on its surface is about 35 times what we experience here.

However, the artists learnt that current technology would be sufficient to protect future interplanetary occupants. Other problems, like growing enough crops for food, are yet to be solved.

Having visited the Mars Desert Research Station in 2016 with funding from the Arts Council, the next step for Ella and Kate is to consult with members of the public, beginning in Autumn this year.

“The act of designing and building the house is a useful way to interrogate themes of sustainability, community and well-being,” said Good.

Featured Image: the artists at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah
Photo by Ella Good and Nicki Kent

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