The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

While governments and businesses around the world look for ways to mitigate climate change and prepare for major demographic shifts, some are also eying space. The United States unveiled the emblem for its new military branch, Space Force, on January 24, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is set to launch its next-generation Mars rover sometime between July 17 and August 5. These are small steps towards a future migration to space, but big steps for business and sustainable technologies on Earth.

Future Homes
Part of NASA’s long-term effort for robotic exploration of the Red Planet, the rover will touch down on February 18, 2021. Among its tasks will be testing a method for producing oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, identifying resources such as subsurface water, improving landing techniques, and characterizing weather, dust, and other potential environmental conditions that could affect humans living and working on Mars.

That potential future ties into the seminar and exhibition I attended at Academy Hills and Mori Art Museum on January 13. Entitled Future and the Arts: AI, Robotics, Cities, Life—How Humanity Will Live Tomorrow, the exhibition, running through March 29, covers a wide range of topics. The first two sections focus on building sustainable communities that meet the challenges of future environments.

One of the concepts on display was not of this world. It was a plan devised by architectural firm Hassell Studio and structural engineers Eckersley O’Callaghan for NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition design to advance the add­itive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing for deep-space exploration and colonization.

Future Tech
To build the first human home on Mars, autonomous robots would be sent to craft an outer shell from dirt and rocks. The arriving exploration team would then construct interiors from inflatable pods using a modular approach that is a theme in many future concepts.

Although I have always been fasci­nated with space, what I find most interesting about Hassell Studio’s 3D-printed habitat and the other concepts shortlisted in NASA’s $3.15 million competition is the potential these technologies have to transform how we live on Earth.

Sustainability is a must when planning habitats on worlds with limited resources, such as the Moon and Mars, and we can learn a lot from the process.

While these projects may seem frivolous to many—“Let’s fix this planet first!” is a common refrain on Twitter—they bring together experts from many industries and spur innovation that can make this world a better place. When we have the ability to simply print structures, the very nature of what we can create fundamentally changes and the possibilities open up in extraordinary ways. I’m looking forward to seeing where these innovations take us. 

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.