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The Facility
Mars Base Zero is a 24' (7.3 m) wide by 44' (13.4 m) long greenhouse, which includes a very small (less than 20 m2--200 square feet) apartment.  The volume enclosed is about 9950 cubic feet (290 cubic meters). The foundation and floor is a 3" (7.6 cm) slab of concrete, re-enforced with ribar (steel) and fiber that is thicker under structural support areas. There are 2 foot high concrete walls around the entire perimeter, as well as separating the living quarters. The general shape of the structure above that is quanset hut (half cylinder), with the long way oriented east/west. The north side of the roof is super-insulated (2 feet--2/3 m insulation) and the south half of the greenhouse is usually covered with plastic if operating in the winter or open if operating in the summer. The south side of the apartment area is a 2x6 inch (5x15 cm) wall that will have a picture window in it.

The growing area (ie not including the apartment) is 864 square feet (about 80 m2). The greenhouse floor is broken up into 6 equal areas, each 12 by 12 feet (3.65 x 3.65 m). These areas are outlined with concrete blocks, and 4 of them are filled with soil. The 2 areas which are not filled with soil are used for crops grown in pots, trays or boxes, the compost pile, aquaculture, pre-plants, etc.

The apartment is about 7 feet (2.2 m) wide and 16 feet (4.9 m) long. You enter the apartment from the 7'x7' (2.2 m) arctic entry, which acts as an entry into the facility, houses the furnace and serves to help reduce the movement of pests into the facility when it is otherwise closed. The apartment has a loft that is the same width as downstairs, but only 10 feet long. The kitchen is downstairs, and is equiped with a propane stove (which is doubles as a way to enrich the air with CO2), a small refridgerator, a short counter and a table with 2 chairs. Upstairs is a desk, chest of drawers, and futon which doubles as bed and couch. When Mars Base Zero is occupied, the computer is located up here, as well as many of our instruments.

The structure is designed to be partially sealed. The floor of the greenhouse is sealed with fiberglass cloth impregnated with resin. Most of the rest of the structure will also be sealed (eventually), with the exception of the arctic entry--which needs an outside air supply for the furnace.  An air tight door will (eventually) seal the furnace room from the rest of the facility.

The Goal
Mars Base Zero is not necessarily designed to support a person. It will provide some, but probably not all of the food a person needs to live off of. The primary goal is not to find out if we can support a person, but to find out how big we need to build Nauvik in order to support a person using our crop techniques. We also want to get the ancillary systems (compost, wastewater, earthworms, aquaculture, etc) systems working; do some preliminary testing on air quality in a semi-closed ecosystem; experiment with enriched CO2 atmosphere; and develop a feel for how much work (time) it will take to keep a CELSS (defined) running, etc.

A Brief History
We began work on it in the mid 1990's. Ground breaking and leveling the pad the first summer, the foundation and perimeter walls the second. The quonset hut shaped framework took 3 years. In the summer of 1999 we closed the structure in and in the fall we insulated the roof and end walls. In mid summer 1999 we planted our first crops: potatoes in the center southern square. By September we had the structure heated (albeit marginally), and in October 1999 Ray and Frances Collins moved into Mars Base Zero and lived there until May, 2000. Although they did not get the ecosystem functional, it was an excelent learning experience (for more details, see diaries below). During the summer of 2000 Ray toured the U.S. and gave a talk about it at a conference (the talk was not a scripted talk, so it was not kept). In 2001 all our local volunteers were busy, so Mars Base Zero remained shut. In the spring of 2002 we planted about 2/3 of the available crop area, and in the fall we actually had a week of closed operation when Ray was locked inside and living exclusively off the produce. Though this first test was not long enough to be meaningful, it gives us a feel for the diet and the modifications needed to make it more palitable.  In 2004 we did a more extensive closure, when Ray was locked inside for 39 days.  This made the news and gave us a lot more data, with a number of papers.  [Note: these links duplicate those below.]

The Future
Mars Base Zero remains a construction site. Many parts of the structure remain to be finished. We will probably continue to use it as we work to finish the structure, gaining experience in running a CELSS. Most of the subsystems need to be built (eg aquaculture). At this point we don't have a specific timeline, but progress is expected to be steady for at least the next couple of years as we finish building both the structure and the ecosystem.

More Information:

Productivity analysis:

Crop plans:


Want more information?  Do write; we'll be happy to answer any questions we can.

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