As space pioneers blast off to lunar habitats or workspaces on Mars, they take a little of University of Houston with them and a lot of the work of Larry Bell.
Bell, a self-proclaimed armchair astronaut, directs the UH Space Architecture program at the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture or SICSA. Working with space agencies and industry partners, SICSA solves problems of living and working in extreme environments.
“We’re kind of like the general practitioners,” Bell said. “We’re not just looking at a habitat necessarily, but how people would operate in that habitat, how would you build it, how would you launch it, how would you land it, how would you deploy it.”
The term “space architecture” is a bit misleading, in that the work is not about architects working in space. Rather, the term describes the architectures of space—what systems and events need to be in place in order to support missions to extreme environments and to support the humans on those missions so that they are productive and healthy?
“For example, how do we deal with a solar storm where there are high radiation levels or the issues low gravity like the moon or mars or an orbit—no gravity—and the impact it has on the body which is profound?” Bell said.
SICSA researchers, which include students, are part of the teams that conceptualize habitats and systems on the moon, on mars, in the ocean or at the top of the world.
“There is a lot of integration. It’s highly interdisciplinary. We do a lot of conceptualization, like an architect, but we also include physicists, civil and industrial engineers, industrial designers. And we are very mindful of how it’s all going to be paid for,” he said.
Many of the team leaders are graduates of the UH Space Architecture program—the only such program on planet Earth—which teaches students how to take the concepts of the big picture and convert it into workable designs.
“When people come here, they leave they’re stronger,” Bell said. “They are leaders as well as innovators. Will this new generation be able to work with all of the imponderables of space exploration and respond in a way that influences new technologies, new economies in a global way? I think yes.”
Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture are part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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