exploded construction of the Mars habitat

NASA X-HAB Studio – Mars Transit Habitat

Outcomes projects

Course Objective

xHab – Human-Centered Space Studio, Mars Transit Habitat, and Mars Surface Habitat.

Awarded a 2016 NASA eXploration (X-HAB) Innovation Grant, this course provides undergraduate and graduate students from the Schools of Architecture and Design the opportunity to work together and in direct association with NASA astronauts, scientists, physicists, and engineers.

Students in this collaborative, full-year design course, co-taught by Michael Morris and Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, designed a transit habitat for a manned mission to Mars in the fall semester of 2015 and built the actual test prototype(s) in the spring term of 2016.

Pratt’s Industrial Design and Architecture students worked with scientists, engineers, and astronauts from NASA as well as consulting professors and researchers from other universities on all aspects of research, design, and fabrication. Field trips to NASA’s Johnson Space Center gave them the opportunity to make presentations, study and tour the facilities.

What we did

  • Literature review
  • Design research
  • Problem definition
  • System design review
  • Preliminary design review
  • Critical design review
  • Create a full scale prototype
  • Project completion review
  • Intrepid Museum installation

Clients / Collaborators

the interior layout of the habitat.
the interior layout of the habitat.

Course Objective

The overarching objective of this studio was to understand and design an environmental solution to support and accommodate the needs of human beings living in extraterrestrial environments /on the Mars Transit Habitat for extended periods. The project combines physical, psychological and holistic health facilities for humans, both well and unwell, to live and work in outer space.

Some of the primary and identifiable human health concerns to address included; space sickness (micro gravity, gravity changes, etc.); mental illness (loneliness, depression, boredom, etc.); claustrophobia; bone density loss; injury due to impact (requires surgery, reconstructive body parts, etc.); short term treatment; long term treatment; and birthing or reproduction.

In the Health (Space) Station, closed loop ecology, replenishing supplies such oxygen and water, waste management and hygiene is paramount for survival. The capacity to grow pharmaceuticals and botanicals for both food and medicine supports health and research purposes.

interior layout of the Mars habitat

NASA Project Collaboration Inspires Pratt Students to Create Habitat for Travel to Mars

In a challenge presented by NASA, Pratt architecture and industrial design students were inspired to address design concerns related to space travel. For an interdisciplinary studio class led by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture Michael Morris and Adjunct Associate Professor of Industrial Design Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, the students worked on the eXploration Habitat (X-Hab) 2016 Academic Innovation Challenge “Human Centered: Designs for the Mars Transit Habitat,” a NASA project collaboration with academic institutions to develop a transit habitat, or module, for the exploration of Mars.

exploded construction of the Mars habitat
Mars habitat interior and exterior


The initial semester was research and concept driven, culminating in a single design solution for the transit habitat that incorporated systems for life support, sleep, exercise, medical, food prep and consumption, work stations and experimentation and relaxation.

The second semester of this year-long design studio involved critical analysis of the work done in the first semester and fabrication of a full-scale Mars Transit Habitat Prototype to be ultimately displayed beneath the Space Shuttle Enterprise on the flight deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

Led by Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman and Michael Morris, this cross-disciplinary studio provided students the opportunity to work with their peers from other programs and learn from each other’s experience and process. This course was conducted by teleconference with MIT, Stony Brook University and Carnegie Mellon University professors and engineering students, NASA and leading aerospace industry staff, academics and corporate contributors to facilitate research in advanced materials, robotics and 3-D printing.