Moving to Mars exhibition at the Design Museum, London

Felix Speller for the Design Museum,



Event, Exhibition,

The Design Museum, London launches a new exhibition that explores how sending humans to Mars is not just a new frontier for science but also for design. Moving to Mars raises a lot of questions about our future, not least of which about our planet Earth.

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Moving to Mars exhibition at the Design Museum, London The Moving to Mars exhibition at London’s Design Museum invites visitors to discover the role that design will play in humanity’s journey to the Red Planet. Because every detail of this extraordinary venture must be designed – from the roughly seven-month journey to considering what we will wear, eat and shelter in when we get there and beyond.
Conditions on Mars - the most dramatic planet in the night sky, which has gripped our interest since time immemorial - are deeply hostile to humans, and yet we appear to be determined to go. From the first photographic fly-by of Mars by Mariner 4 in 1965 to today’s enterprises, such as NASA and ESA’s Orion project and the private SpaceX venture, getting humans to Mars has become one of the greatest challenges of our time, especially in terms of design.
The exhibition begins with ‘Imagining Mars’, revealing the many ways we have looked at Mars from the earliest mentions in a cuneiform tablet from the British Museum to the first maps of Mars by Giovanni Schiaparelli, through to science fiction and popular culture. This section includes a full-scale model of the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover. Visitors then have a chance to glimpse the hostile environment of Mars in the ‘On Mars Today’ multisensory installation which includes a scent ‘Utopia Planitia’ from French perfumer, Nicolas Bonneville of Firmenich that has been made especially for the exhibition.
The exhibition will also tackle The Voyage, looking at the role designers play in the journey.  From food trays by NASA to Galina Balashova’s designs for Russian space interiors from 1964 to 1980 to Raymond Loewy’s design work for space stations and the NDX-1 spacesuit, designed specifically for the surface of Mars by the University of North Dakota.  The challenges of dining in space are addressed by German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, inspired by the constraints imposed by zero gravity.
The next section ‘Survival’ is another immersive experience, where visitors will also be able to enter a full-scale Mars habitat for the first time – designed by London-based architecture firm HASSELL as part of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.  This section will also look at farming on Mars through hydroponic farming kits and Spirulina-growing systems.
In the ‘Mars Futures’ section, the exhibition wonders if we really should by designing for Mars. In an installation that imagines an alternative scenario, Dr Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg simulates a situation where the Red Planet is colonised only by plant life, not humans. This leads to the final section, ‘Down to Earth’, where visitors are faced with a stark choice – should we really go to Mars?  Wouldn’t it be easier to save our planet Earth by making better choices and policies? 
Because so many people are starting to wonder if this new race to get to Mars is just a way of diverting our attention - by designers too - from the pressing questions of our times, particularly in view of the climate crisis. Having a “planet B” could slow down progress in this direction.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition: Moving to Mars
8 October 2019 – 23 February 2020
the Design Museum, London, UK
Curatorial Team: Justin McGuirk – Chief Curator, Andrew Nahum – Guest Curator, Eleanor Watson – Curator
Exhibition Design: Fabrique with Northern Light – Visitor Experience Designers, Fabrique – 2D Designers, All Things Studio – 3D Designers
Images: see captions (Felix Speller for the Design Museum, Ed Reeves)
Find out more: https://designmuseum.org/


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