We will in the coming decades establish ourselves in orbit around the Moon, on the surface of Mars, and in a more distant future on moons of Jupiter and Saturn. To get there we must learn how to sustain human life in hostile environments, with limited resupply. What balance of mechanical and biological systems will be required to sustain human life in a growing, off-world habitat?
SIMOC [see-mok] – A scalable, interactive model of an off-world community.
SIMOC is a hi-fidelity model and web interface to a simulation of a human habitat on Mars. Users are invited to design a habitat that sustains human life through a combination of physico-chemical (mechanical) and bioregenerative (living plant) systems, selecting various combinations of crew quarters, greenhouse, food and plants, energy generation and storage, and mission duration.
Sound simple? Science fiction has made it look too easy with airlocks that never require decompression, food materializing out of thin air, and the processing of waste or recycling of air something that happens off-camera. In the real cosmos, living off-world is far more challenging. Finding a balance of machines, plants, and humans is a complex endeavor. The slightest incongruity in waste management, power production, or CO2 scrubbing can result in catastrophic failure, forcing the abandonment of the habitat, or worse.
After 50 years in low Earth orbit, solutions for living in space remain heavily biased toward mechanical systems and resupply missions. This is not a long-term solution if we desire to establish new homes among the stars. SIMOC is a place to experiment, to test theories and make mistakes—to explore.
SIMOC offers a web interface for citizen scientists and students everywhere to engage in an iterative exploration of the many variables to discover sustainable solutions. Lesson plans are freely available for grades 5-8 and 9-14, with guidance for both teachers and students. And for academic researchers, the SIMOC server is available for local deployment, supporting single computer, server, and cloud computing.
SIMOC is an Arizona State University, School of Earth and Space Exploration,
Interplanetary Initiative Pilot Project.