The Mars Challenge: Martina Lasinger’s Solar Suit

We have recently opened submissions for The Challenge – Design to De-stress in conjunction with the upcoming Frame #119 Nov/Dec issue. Each Challenge addresses a different topical issue, which we ask designers to respond to.

The Challenge series in Frame magazine began in our #114 Jan/Feb issue this year, under the section called Talents. Inspired by Elon Musk’s plans for space colonization, we asked five young designers to create an essential travel item for a trip to Mars. Martina Lasinger was one of them.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
MARTINA LASINGER: I’m originally from Austria but have lived and worked in the Netherlands for several years now. In 2014 I graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven.

Research and philosophy are the foundation of my work, but I often translate and express the ideas that emerge in a physical way, through the use of special materials.

I understand that your journey started by researching the weather on Mars?
That’s true. On average, the temperature there is about -60°C, while on a summer day it might rise to 20°C. This triggered my consideration of how astronauts would survive in such conditions, how they’d generate energy and move around the planet when constructing the first shelters.

What’s your solution?
Solar energy will be vital on Mars – the sun will supply power for almost everything – so I developed a suit made from a smart textile with integrated organic solar cells.

How does it work?
The fabric used to make the Solar Suit features round segments that absorb the sun’s rays and store solar energy in a battery. This enables the wearer to leave the space station and explore Mars for a longer period of time than would be possible with an ordinary space suit.

You’ve put an incredible level of detail into the concept.
The visualization I created includes more than 1,000 little stickers painted in shades of red and copper. Each tiny dot refers to the ‘red planet’, and the suit’s rounded shape adapts well to the curves of the astronaut’s body. It’s designed to blend in with the landscape of Mars. The surface of the planet contains a lot of iron oxide. We know that iron and oxygen combine to make blood red, and that rust, an iron oxide, also has a reddish hue.

Space is a common theme in your work. What draws you to it again and again?
I was deeply inspired by one of Stephen Hawking’s early speeches. After hearing it, I read most of his books and started doing research on my own. Space is an infinite matter that poses many questions to mankind that have yet to be solved. The subject of space gives an artist innumerable sources of inspiration.

Could objects like the Solar Suit, designed for space travel, have practical applications for us here on earth?
Yes. It’s already common for new technologies – like those developed by NASA – to trickle down to mainstream use. The Solar Suit isn’t that far from reality. Its cells and battery could work on any planet with access to the sun, and their benefits could be applied in projects more relevant to Earth.

What role do you think wearable technology will play in the future?
A big one. I foresee an increase in the development of smart textiles and nanotechnology. A good example is Hövding, the airbag for cyclists, which is equipped with sensors capable of detecting deviations in the user’s normal cycling habits and preventing injury when an accident occurs. It’s this kind of technology that will make our lives safer.

How can designers contribute to such improvements?
Although young designers are working on great ideas, I believe that big change will come only if it’s backed by a new political mentality. We need a revolution in the way energy is used and waste is managed. For this to happen, governments must introduce and enforce laws to protect and maintain Earth’s resources.

 

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Billboard: Frame Awards
Billboard: Frame Awards

More from this issue

Frame 114

Frame 114

The Jan/Feb issue of Frame explores the most ground-breaking environments for learning, from offices structured like college campuses to hospitality venues that double as libraries. The Jan/Feb issue of Frame explores the most ground-breaking environments for learning, from offices structured like college campuses to hospitality venues that double as libraries. The Jan/Feb issue of Frame explores the most ground-breaking environments for learning, from offices structured like college campuses to hospitality venues that double as libraries.

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