Intelligent Machines

A Deep-Space Home for Astronauts

NASA is building a living and working space for astronauts traveling to the moon, Mars, or an asteroid.


NASA is building a habitat for astronauts to live and work when they travel to distant locations like the moon, Mars, or an asteroid. The new habitat, called the Habitat Demonstration Unit (HDU), underwent testing this year in the Arizona desert, an environment that simulates conditions that may be encountered on planetary surfaces in space. 


The bottom portion of HDU is a hard cylinder-shaped shell with four work rooms inside: teleoperations, which includes a telerobotics workstation, a laboratory bench called GeoLab, medical operations, and a general maintenance workstation. There are two modules attached to both sides of HDU; the one at left (shown above) is used for dust mitigation; the second (obscured) is for hygiene.


The telerobotics workstation is a new element. It lets astronauts inside the unit communicate with robots outside. Shown here is one of NASA’s most advanced robots, Robonaut, conducting work outside HDU during testing in Arizona.


This image inside the habitat shows lettuce growing under artificial light. It’s an example of how HDU can be a sustainable, space-based living quarter.


An inflatable structure sits on top of HDU to provide extra room for sleeping and relaxing. The inflatable loft design was part of a university competition called X-Hab. Here, the University of Maryland’s design is being lifted for placement atop HDU at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.


The X-Hab loft built by the University of Wisconsin-Madison won the challenge, and is shown here being lifted to the habitat at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.


NASA says the unit could be sent to space for testing within a decade. Here, fully assembled, it sits in the Arizona desert at night.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence and robots are transforming how we work and live.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Premium.
  • Insider Premium {! insider.prices.premium !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Our award winning magazine, unlimited access to our story archive, special discounts to MIT Technology Review Events, and exclusive content.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Ad-free web experience

    First Look: exclusive early access to important stories, before they’re available to anyone else

    Insider Conversations: listen in on in-depth calls between our editors and today’s thought leaders

You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.