Deep in the Utah desert, a tiny, compact facility houses scientists who want to experience a simulated version of life on Mars. The furniture might look familiar.
Ikea announced this week that it has partnered with the Mars Desert Research Station to decorate the two-story habitat with space-efficient furniture that could theoretically be put to use in future Mars colonies.
The research station houses teams of six scientists at a time, who spend two weeks living off food and water rations and oxygen packs. They traverse the area surrounding the research station using all-terrain vehicles, collecting rock samples and taking atmospheric readings in a “dress rehearsal” for sending humans to Mars.
The Swedish furniture giant first began working with the Mars Society, which runs the research station, two years ago when Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn spent several days living in the habitat. Levenborn designed a line of furniture for small spaces based on her time there, according to Fast Company.
Now, Ikea has provided a range of its furniture to redecorate the interior of the research station to envision how future Mars denizens might live.
Take a look at the inside of the research station:
The research station is just eight yards across, built from materials meant to withstand the weather on Mars.
For the two weeks they spend at the facility, researchers aim to operate as if they were really isolated on Mars, surviving only on preserved food they've brought.
“We tried to work with products for small space living situation that could be arranged in a flexible and multifunctional way,” Levenborn said.
The facility includes a lab, where researchers can test rock and atmospheric samples they've collected.
The space's round walls posed a design challenge, Levenborn said, as did the need for lightweight, sturdy furniture.”
In a small space where many people have to share workspaces, it is important to be able to adjust to everyone's needs, whether they prefer to work standing or sitting,” Levenborn said.
The facility includes greenhouses meant to grow food for survival on Mars.
Researchers also breathe using oxygen tanks whenever they leave the facility.
“It is necessary to have the whole crew on the same sleep-wake cycle. This is necessary anyway, to maximize the social space of the crew. When you want to be alone, you can go to your bunk and read,” Mars Society president Robert Zubrin said in a statement.
“We hope to learn more about living in extremely small spaces and how our products can be used,” Levenborn said. “Preparing for this kind of scarcity on Mars puts a focus on all the good things we have on earth that we take for granted.”