Martian DIY

naturally dyed fabrics

Working with fashion spacewear design and textile artist Anurita Chandola a collection of textiles around the house has been created – from duvets, bedsheets and pillows to towels and washcloths.

A variety of techniques have been used to create colour on our textiles, from using dyes made from turmeric, onion peels and avocado skin to flower pounding – where you simply lay flowers on the fabric and press them to gradually create an imprint. We also tried out tie-dying and bundle dying with teas to create different patterns.

Throughout August adults and children were able to attend free workshops to help us make the patterns and learn about natural dyeing techniques. So the fabrics have been made by many people experimenting together.

We used cotton and silk for our fabrics that we added dyes to. These are 100% natural with no added synthetic materials, meaning that when eventually they wear out the fibres are completely biodegradable and therefore suitable as part of a closed loop system that you would live in on a house on Mars. They could be cut up and used for other textiles around the house, and eventually be composted. You could either take the fabrics with you from Earth, and then personalise them with what you had growing around you once your plants were established, or once you were really established you could perhaps grow your own cotton. We also wondered whether you might be able to keep silk worms to produce your own silk, as a relatively large amount of silk can produced from a small amount of silk worms, and they do not require vast amounts of resources to live.

We also used zero waste cutting techniques – meaning that you don’t cut out your fabrics to an exact size or trim wonky edges. Fabric offcuts are a large source of waste in the fashion industry (and when synthetic fabrics are used, especially those that have plastic in them like polyester, the offcuts will end up in landfill).

The textiles have turned out to be a very beautiful collection. We think they look stunning and would not be out of place in a boutique shop on Earth! It goes to show that you can still have beautiful items around you even in a resource limited place.

human hair pillow

This pillow is stuffed with human hair.

On Mars everything would be a resource – even down to bodily waste. Hair could provide a useful alternative to use for all kinds of things around the house from soft furnishings, to potentially even as a thread for sewing. It is also completely biodegradable rather than taking synthetic padding with you to stuff pillows or mattresses with.

Here on Earth we collected leftover hair from hairdressers to use. On Mars perhaps you would carefully save your hair as you naturally shed some everyday, until you had enough for your purpose.

We also have experimented with making paintbrushes with human hair bristles.

bicycle dynamo exercise machine

Made by Camille Vanneste

This was made from an old bicycle. It incorporates a little windmill that turns and makes a small breeze – to simulate the feeling of the wind in your face as you cycle, reminding you of Earth.

On Mars you wouldn’t be able to go outside much and would still need to exercise, so something like this in your house might be a useful addition to help you stay fit.

The pedal power from the bike powers a small light. Seeing the results of your exercise provides a useful and fun incentive to exercise more! This is a prototype and could potentially be used to power something else if it was scaled up. If you cycled for fifteen minutes or so perhaps you could generate enough power to send an email home to friends on Earth.

Human power production could provide a useful power source for energy use, from sophisticated exercise machines to biogas generators.

The work of designer Melle Smets looks how we could make human power plants that are both energy efficient, and fun to exercise. Their designs for The Human Power Plant plan to convert a 22 floor vacant building on the campus of Utrecht University into an entirely human powered student house.

Our prototype exercise machine, made by Camille Vanneste

martian stool

Maream Merza

One of the first things I thought of when thinking about what the most important thing to have in a foreign place you would call home for the rest of your lifetime is somewhere to sit. 

Before advancing the technology on Mars, the idea is to approach designing a chair in a more traditional way which is where the idea came for a prototype stool inspired by the bamboo stools made here on Earth.

I found a scrap plastic tube which in this case, would be re-used from the rocket we land on to make the legs of the chair. With some soil, gravel and rocks poured inside the tube would help bring weight to the legs. Bamboo sticks that are grown on the rocket put around the stool to help stabilise and avoid it falling through with a piece of fabric that can be weaved to tied to the chair to make a simplified stool, that can be used easily. 

Martian playing cards

Did you know that playing cards were invented as early as the 10th century? The first reference of playing cards was in Chinese literature, before they made their way over to Europe later in the 1370’s. Records of religious sermons from the 1400’s make reference to card games as a sinful gambling activity, and in particular, associations between card play and seduction became widespread. With the invention of woodblock printing in Germany in the 15th century, production was much less costly (originals were hand-painted and a plaything purely for the rich) and their social appeal grew and grew, as did development for new games.

Much of our early discussion when we started our projects revolved around what we would do for entertainment on Mars. You’re in for a LOT of down-time in space! I think an idea a lot of us get from sci-fi and movies is that a future on a different planet will look very hi-tech, with super- fast Wi-Fi and lots of little flashy buttons everywhere. But if we’re really talking about establishing a new community on a new planet, we’ll be going back to basics on a lot of things.

In lockdown, my boyfriend and I established a competitive evening routine of card games – we tried out so many and still religiously always carry a pack of cards to the pub. The lovely simplicity of sitting down to play a few hands was an easy and pleasant end to the day – and sharing games with wider groups of people is a wonderful way to build community.

I love the idea of card games on Mars. As well as being a sentimental link back to Earth, I think the Martian settlers will come up with new games and ways of playing as their own culture develops. This was important to bear in mind when making this set. Made using recycled cardboard and paper, once your cards start to fray and get grubby, you can turn them back into pulp and make new ones. They could be the same deck, or a new game altogether! The way these cards will evolve over the years is similar, I think, to what will happen to us on Mars – we’ll be gradually shaped by the years, by the new landscape, by the community and a new culture. Or maybe, a simple deck of cards won’t end up changing much at all – and will be conserved as a memory of our time back on Earth.

Making your own cards

You will need:

  • A mesh frame
  • A large container (I used a plastic planter – you can get these from a hardware shop)
  • Cardboard and paper – anything you have. Cardboard and thick paper produces much more hardwearing stuff!
  • A blender
  • Water

Step one

  • Cut or tear your paper and card into shreds. It doesn’t have to be neat – this is just so it will blend easily!

Step two

-Add to a blender with a good amount of water. Blend until very mushy and you can’t see any scraps of paper or card.

Step three

-Add your papery mush to your container. You’ll need to add some water as well to get it to the right sort of consistency.

Step four

-your mix should look like muddy water, with no visible clumps. Swish it around with your hand or a whisk to make sure it’s fully blended.

Step five

-Get the mesh frame (shallowest side up) in the water and swish around. This bit is the tricky part- you want to get the mixture as evenly spread as possible on the frame. I found that inserting the frame at a slight angle, picking up some of the mix on the way out, then turning it round and repeating gave me the best results.

Step six

You now have to wait for your paper to dry out. This could take up to 3 days – try and leave it in a warm spot and outside whilst it’s sunny to speed up the process.

Step seven

-When ready, the paper should feel completely dry to the touch. Don’t risk taking it off the frame before it’s ready – it won’t be strong enough and might break apart. When it’s ready, carefully and slowly peel from the frame, pressing from the other side to encourage it to come away.

Step eight

Time to make your cards! I made mine on Photoshop and printed them out on the smooth side of the paper, but you can hand draw if you prefer. For the templates, I used this website and made sure the backgrounds were transparent on all the cards before I printed. 

Cut them out and your cards are done! When they start to get grubby or floppy, follow the steps from the beginning to recycle them into new cards.

Creating a multi-purpose mobile App for the Martian House

Martian House App project

Matt Austin, Aravind Satheesh, Julian Parsons, Dominic O’Neill (Invited participant)


Artists Ella Good and Nicki Kent have created a Martian House that currently sits in M Shed Square, Bristol, co-designed with architects, scientists and the general public. It is a prototype of a house that could be lived in on Mars. It is also a public artwork and a research centre. The interiors are being made with a group of Bristolians re-imagining what the objects of everyday living in a zero-waste environment might look like, filling the inside of the house with inventions, ideas and colour.

This article discusses how, as a part of the Interiors team, a multi-purpose mobile application was quickly created to enhance the Martian House experience for visitors. This is probably not what a community on Mars would actually need to build for themselves to support their lives on Mars, but the process followed could be similar.


The Interiors team had a series of face to face meetings and brainstorming discussions, to decide how the inside of the house should be developed, based on how they imagined people would live in that Martian environment. As part of these discussions there were ideas to simulate an environmental monitor (Matt and Julian) to show the dependencies on factors such as oxygen supply, water supply, power consumption/ reserves, etc. During these investigations it was discovered that NASA published interfaces to allow access to cameras on the Mars Rover vehicle, and also published weather reports from Mars. The team felt that it would aid understanding of what it would be like to live in the house on Mars, by providing the context of the environmental constraints, to see real images from the surface of Mars, and to see the real weather conditions experienced on Mars. On this basis it was decided to try and develop a mobile application that could simulate the environmental monitor and present Mars images and Mars weather. This would create an interactive experience for visitor’s which would

lead them to a better understanding of the design decisions being taken across the broader Martian House project.

The Process

It was a very informal but very collaborative process and initial ideas were sketched on paper or mocked up in other tools. For instance, Matt used Power BI for the environmental monitor and Aravind used paper to sketch his ideas. Julian discussed the overall layout in verbal discussions with Dominic and provided links to the NASA programming interfaces, that provided the Mars Rover photographs and Mars weather data.

Initial prototype ideas:

The App team communicated via email, face to face discussion (group meetings and one to one), and video calls. An early prototype was presented to the whole team at the weekly meetup’s on Saturdays, and the feedback was discussed and collated with those present.

The prototype application was drafted using a creative tool (EasyFlo from Cotham Technologies), and assistance was provided by Dominic O’Neill to support the realization of the team’s design.

Incorporation of Feedback

One of the main areas of feedback was to incorporate Earth Sounds into the application. This came about in a collaborative way as one team member (Aravind) was experimenting with Earth sounds (Birdsong, Waves, Wind, etc.) in the house and it was suggested that this could be incorporated into the App. This would allow visitors to select Earth sounds which could remind occupants of the house of their times on Earth, and provide an environment for relaxation and meditation.

Aravind further proposed to incorporate the ability to see the weather conditions on Earth from a specified location on Earth. The idea was for people to feel connected to their home city, or place of birth, as well as hear sounds from Earth that would remind them of home and/or provide some ambient sounds for reminiscing or just relaxing. These were topics that were discussed amongst the wider team, at earlier group brainstorming sessions, and then filtered through during the App build process. Dominic then took this a stage further by incorporating images as well as weather reports.

Martian Context

Due to the ability of the EasyFlo tool to make changes to the App in real time, it was possible to implement these changes very quickly and to re-present the prototype to the team for feedback. This in turn generated ideas for further changes and enhancements, which may be incorporated into later releases of the application. At no stage was there any discussion about writing software code, or any other steps of a traditional software development process. This ensured that it was a very collaborative process with the majority of the time spent discussing how the App should look, feel and perform. The creators could instantly make the changes and assess the impact without going through a separate team to develop the App.

In a Martian context this could be a very useful process. The participants could agree upon an App that would benefit the wider community, or be a necessity, and could then work together to design how the App should perform. Members of the team could trial ideas until the overall design and implementation is agreed upon by the community.


Overall this process felt very collaborative and embodied a lot of the thinking and ideas that had taken place across multiple meetings of the full interiors team. The App has been realized in the Martian house as a type of control console mounted on the wall of the house. Visitors will be able to interact with the App to understand the actual Martian weather and see detailed images of the Martian landscape. They can understand the essential factors that would have to be managed on a daily basis and can experiment with different Earth sounds and images within the house. We believe this project provides insight into how a Martian community could develop applications that would benefit their community.

The finished installation of the app in the house

Woven Mattress / Charpai bed

We have created a woven mattress, inspired by traditional Indian charpai beds. You sleep directly on the suspended woven surface with no need for a mattress. We used rope and recycled kite fabric to weave ours – on Mars these are items that could be salvaged and re-used from the rocket.

Traditional charpai bed
Weaving the main frame for our mattress

Martian Clay

This clay was made from mud stone and sand from Watchet Bay, in North Devon UK. This is the most geologically similar place to Mars on Earth!

A team from the University of Leicester and the Open University, working on a complex study of the red planet, have found that a type of rock found on Mars bears remarkable similarity to the geology of Watchet in West Somerset. More info here.

We visited Watchet to source some sand and mudstone, and we have turned it into clay, which is being used to make clay plates for our Martian house.

Sphagnum Moss Pad

DIY sustainable menstrual pad. Women on Mars will menstruate just like on Earth.

Knitting Sphagnum (type of moss) – moss can be grown on Mars but it is short lived, we can try and modify it, or think of alternatives.

As an initial design experiment, I have attempted to knit my dried sphagnum moss between layers of cotton (this could be another biodegradable yarn instead). The texture of the dried moss is very powdery —it disintegrates quickly, and therefore it might be the best kind of material to spin into fibres, or to put in direct contact with intimate areas. These kind of patches could later be incorporated into pouches or pockets of fabric, similar to the SFAG-NA-KINS, which would be much more comfortable against the skin.

Sphagnum Moss was used by the American Red Cross in the manufacture of surgical dressings for war time use.

Dried moss can be regrown later by just adding water. Perhaps the nutrients in menstrual blood, acting as a fertilizer, could contribute to the growth.