Moving to Mars

Posted January 20, 2020

Tags #MaMoMi #Access #Mars #SpaceTravel #Multisensory #tours

At the Design Museum
Tour date: Saturday 11 January 2020.

Moving to Mars is an immersive exhibition transporting visitors to another planet. Exploring themes of sustainability, survival and space travel, the exhibition envisions our journey to Mars and questions our right to settle there.

This Multisensory tour explored the ways design can negotiate our relationship with our environment and the 200 exhibits on display are split into sections which mainly deal with our history with Mars, voyaging to and surviving on it and our future relationship with it.

On this tour, we focused on Imagining life on Mars, had an experience of Mars by stepping into a spatial dimension of Mars while walking on a surface that mimicked parts of Mars, explored the voyage to Mars, and the ways we can live and work on Mars.

This image depicts VI's at the entrance to the Moving to Mars exhibition, with a large image of Mars illuminated on the right wall. The photograph is a black and white image, with the left side very dark.

Image: At the entrance of the Moving to Mars exhibition, with the image of Mars illuminated to the right | Image credit: Eve Milner.

So, I guess the question we ask ourselves is, why Mars? Let’s take a moment to think about this.

Quote: The Ultimate designed life.

Mars is not meant for humans, yet we desperately want to go there. Mars is a freezing, dry barren desert and high UV environment which has almost no oxygen. It is constantly bombarded by cosmic radiation which reaches the surface. It also does not have any water on the surface, so how are we really supposed to live and survive on this extremely arid environment?

Yet is has been said that, if successful, this will be the ultimate designed life.

There is the suggestion that the experience of space exploration of Mars may provide us with solutions to some of earth’s problems. And the continued damage to earth’s environment by climate change caused by global warming, and the risk of cosmic collisions by Asteroids, Comets and meteorites are among the reasons space exploration is been legislated by scientists.

But should we invest the resources required to make Mars habitable, when we struggle to protect the future of earth?


When you think about the planet Mars, what do you imagine? The most startling planet in the night sky, its reddish glow and wandering motion was a big fascination for ancient astronomers.

A VI participant is peering into a model of a space rocket

Image: A VI participant peers into a model of a space rocket | Image credit: Eve Milner

Early images of Mars from comic books, Hollywood and folklore depicted Mars as a place that promised fire, destruction and wars. And the inhabitants were depicted as cold, evil and unemotional beings.

The development of telescopes gave astronomers more insight into Mars, with Galileo tracking its orbit and British-German astronomer William Herschel locating ice on Mar’s poles. By the 1870’s, astronomers were convinced there were channels or canals on the surface. By the 1950’s, a golden age of screen fiction writers populated Mars with living beings and earth settlers.

Lowell’s theories about canals and life on Mars became recurrent topics in films, novels and magazines and authors like Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov bridged the gap by using science education and directly promoting space exploration.

The challenge for powering the solar-powered exploration vehicles on Mars is the greater distance to the sun, which leads to weaker sunlight. Mars Exploration Rovers must be reliable, withstanding high levels of acceleration, high and low temperatures, pressure, dust, corrosion, and cosmic rays. They also must be compact, partially or fully autonomous.


As was mentioned earlier, Mars is a freezing and barren desert with almost no oxygen. It is constantly bombarded by cosmic radiation which reaches the surface because there is no magnetosphere. The Curiosity Rover space exploration vehicle has found Methane on Mars. This room has the scent of Utopia Planitia, created by French perfumer Nicholas Bonneville. Several participants felt the scent reminded them of the smell of cigars, while some felt it was musky and dry.

A VI Participant walks into a designed space that explores the experience of walking on Mars.

Image: A VI participant steps on a room display depicting a wide screen depiction of Mars and the uneven Mars surface | Image credit: Eve Milner.

VI participants experienced an immersive installation featuring a high resolution imagery from Mars never seen in public before. This space also had the floor covered in an slightly undulating surface, replicating parts of the rough top surface on Mars, which they walked on without shoes. It reminded you of walking on old, uneven and disrepaired pavements.

On Mars, dark dunes are formed on the surface by the strong winds and storms. The dust is as thin as Icing sugar and though there is no liquid water on the surface, there is some frozen water on the poles.

The shape and size of the rock boulders on Mars means they must have been moved by water and air. The soil and rocks contain minerals which are useful for life. It will take between 150 to 300 days to get to Mars from Earth.


Future travellers to Mars will have to undergo immense preparations before taking the trip to Mars. Preparation will include decompression training, G-force training, scuba certification, micro gravity flights, space exploration classes and water survival.

The journey to Mars will take 7 months and we must think about how we stay safe and sane throughout the voyage to Mars. Zero gravity means we must rethink how daily tasks are carried out. Cooking, eating, washing and sleeping will have to be adapted and we will have to exercise at least 2 hours a day to avoid losing bone density and muscle mass.

Personal space will be minimal so imagine travelling in such confined spaces for up to 7 months? We wonder what the psychological effect that will have on travellers, especially first time space travellers?

A VI participant can be seen viewing the European Space Agency ExoMars space exploration vehicle

Image: The European Space Agency ExoMars | Image credit: Eve Milner

Since the first human spaceflight by the Soviet Union, citizens of up to 41 countries have flown in space. 9 countries now have the capacity to build orbital launch to outer space.

Only about a third of the missions to Mars have been successful. The first attempts to reach Mars was by Russia’s Sputnik, launched in 1957 but all attempts to Mars flyby failed. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mariner 4 was launched in 1964 and was the first to Flyby Mars in 1964, which sent 21 photos of the Red planet. The first successful landing was NASA’s Viking Lander in July 1976, taking the first colour photos of Mars, disappointment because it was clear to see how desolate Mars was.

The Sojourner rover arrived on Mars in 1997, the first rover to trundle around on Mars. NASA’s Opportunity landed in 2004 but went silent in 2018. NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), ROSCOSMOS (Russian Space Agency) and India are only the 4th entity (Government or National agencies) to place a Mars satellite on Mars.

Space exploration has enthralled the interest of so-called lesser nations, India to be specific. Mangalyaan, also called Mars Orbit Mission (MOM), launched a space probe orbiting Mars in 2013, remarkably completed at a low cost.

In 2002, Elon Musk, known for his Tesla electric cars, set up SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation), a private space launch business because he reasoned that Space launch business will become viable for private companies. Musk believes we will be on Mars by 2027.


Now that we have arrived on Mars, how would we live there? We need a human-centred design to make our living and working spaces habitable, one of the biggest challenges to settling on Mars. The basic things we require to live on earth are food, water, shelter, and clothing. To live on Mars, we need all of that, plus oxygen.

Water is the basis of all life as we know it and we need water on Mars. The soil is very dry like the desert but alone contains up to 60% water. Mars craters have sheets of ice on them and just below the soil surface is ice, and evidence of huge underground glaciers.

Mars is extremely cold, up to 80 degrees. We may be able to live in inflatable pressurized buildings as well as the Landers themselves, but the level of cosmic radiation means we must go underground in caves or lava tubes.

Several VI participants can be seen viewing and discussing 3D printed buildings planned for Mars

Image: VI participants discussing 3D printed buildings planned for Mars | Image credit: Eve Milner

Mars topsoil is covered in regolith, the red dust on the surface soil which is very loose but can be made strong enough to build bricks with, by mixing it with plastic polymers. The basalt pellets in the exhibition can be touched and will be used for 3D printing buildings on Mars.

The Mars X house will be designed with regolith mixed with chips of basalt rock bound with Sulphur, to minimize exposure to cosmic and solar radiation. Upper floors will be used as water tanks and protective mass around occupants.

A VI participant viewing a hydroponics project that will be used to grow 20 percent of our food requirements on Mars

Image: A VI participant viewing a Hydroponic project | Image credit: Eve Milner

For food, hydroponics will help to grow food, but we will only be able to grow about 20% of our food needs until there is water running on the surface of Mars and the probability of planting crops. We will have to bring 80% of what we need from earth, as dried food.

There are also ideas to terraform Mars, a self-sufficient closed Ecosystem and geo-engineering that will require us to warm up the planet. Mars is very cold because of its very thin atmosphere but we can heat up the dry ice sheets on the north and south poles to create water. A runaway greenhouse effect with enough high temperature will make the ice melt, with the atmosphere getting more protection from radiation, more warmth creating running water, and crop growth becoming possible.

This is the view of a full scale home in Mars, filled with 3D printed furniture ans space saving units

Image: The HAB POD, a full-scale home in Mars | Image credit: Felix Speller

The HAB POD is example of a 3D printed home, with space-saving ideas like compact units and 3D printed furniture.


The workshop session provided us with an opportunity to discuss adaptations required to make life on Mars habitable for us. Our participants shared thoughts on ideas that could work on Mars, including buildings that could be layered with a light and recyclable material that would make the on-surface buildings less permissive.

A VI drawing sketches and creating ideas for a more adaptable habitation on Mars

Image: A VI drawing sketches of living quarters on Mars | Image credit: Eve Milner

More discussions and iterations for possible habitation on Mars

Image: A VI and her companion discussing ideas and designs for life on Mars | Image credit: Eve Milner


The next tour is a tour of the Beazley Designs of the Year 2019 exhibition.

It will hold on Saturday 8 February 2020, from 10:30 to 12:30

We will discover influential designs from the fields of fashion, architecture, transport, product, graphics and digital.


To book a place on this free tour, please email with the title of the tour, your name and number of places required.

You also have the option to call the Design Museum’s access team on +44 20 3862 5937 between 10 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Visit the Design Museum website for online booking via


Tour facilitator: Andrew Mashigo

Photography: Eve Milner

Photography: Felix Speller


Life’s little Adventures

Posted on September 19, 2015

Julie Imus is a visually challenged American artist residing in Iowa. A lover of nature, animals and the outdoors, she is an adventurer whose faith in God has given her the ability to overcome the challenges of oil painting with very little sight.She was always interested in painting from an early age and learnt to paint even better between art classes at school and the Bob Ross programs. Bob Ross was an American landscape painter and television host who was best known as the creator and host of The Joy of Painting, a television program that aired in the US and several other countries between 1983 and 1994.

In June of 2007 Julie lost the vision in her left eye, after already having had retinal damage in her right eye. At that point she thought she would never paint again but in the fall of 2011, she felt God very strongly told her to go back to painting, and as she says, “by God’s, hand I am still able to do so.”

The Hiding Place
Oil on canvas. 16 x 20 inch

“This painting came into existence because of a Bob Ross lesson I was watching one day. In this particular episode, Bob was instructing viewers how to make a whole forest of trees in a simple way. I was keen to try out this method and started thinking about the woods and remembered how i used to ride in the woods years ago, and seeing a fawn hiding in the bushes. So here we see how a childhood adventure, Bob Ross instruction, my imagination and love of nature collectively gave me what I needed to paint this piece.”

Winter Feed
Oil on canvas. 18 x 24 inch

Julie’s brother Jay is a hunter, and currently elk hunting in Colorado. He had told her, one day a few weeks previously, that he would like a painting of a whitetail buck deer, something to fit into a “woodsy” theme going through his house. So she painted Winter Feed for his birthday in September, a great addition to his collection.

Wild Within


Oil on canvas. 16 x 20 inch

“As some of you may know, I love horses and rode daily when I was a kid. The only times i did not ride were on stormy days and very cold winter days. One day i saw a photo online of this horse, and i thought she was so gorgeous I had to paint her. I want to do some black and white paintings as i think they look so good.

While I was painting this, a thought occurred to me, and I began to wonder how many domesticated horses would love to just run wild, hence the title of this painting. This is one painting i really enjoyed doing and my plan is to paint more black and white horses, and probably just adding one color for interest.”

To see more of Julie’s paintings or to commission her, contact by clicking here for the Julie Imus Art page on Facebook

Images used with the permission of Julie Imus. 2015

LUMO at Design Museum: Exploring Light and Sound

The multisensory tour at Design Museum, titled Light, Sound and the Built Environment, took place on Saturday 11 July, looking at how new technology in the museum’s collection and current exhibitions explores the senses of light and sound, and how technology has in itself been used to improve our lives. Among the devices explored were Lumo, Leaf Light, Light Scores and the Responsive Street Furniture.

The multisensory approach allows us to communicate in ways not previously appreciated, enabling a richer, more valuable experience for users. These tours take an objective approach to interpretation and involve our participants in an engaging and insightful dialogue around the object explored. We believe that interpretation should be about sharing and learning through exploration.

Lumo at Design Museum 1
Visually impaired participant using LUMO.

About LUMO:
LUMO is small, portable and affordable a real time graphic reader which enables blind and visually impaired to read shapes, graphs, diagrams and colour directly from paper, textbook or sketch book. It converts black lines into vibration and translates colour into sound. On our live test during this tour, we found that it was particularly useful for blind people, especially those with no colour or light reference.

Designed by Anna Wojdecka in 2013 and first exhibited at the Royal College of Art show in 2014, LUMO was specially developed to enable blind people read and draw shapes, graphs and diagrams and also recognise colours. Even though its still in early phases of development it has already been recognised by users, RNIB and the health tech industry for its capacity to change lives and open up new fields of study to the blind and visually impaired, and for its innovation and inventiveness. The model we tried was the prototype, as seen above, but the final design will look like this, in the image below.

Lumo prototype

LUMO reads the surface of a page and translates graphical data into tactile and sound feedback. It converts black lines into vibration and colours into sound tones. Each colour calibrates to a different sound pitch, allowing blind people identify various hues of colour.

For a first time user, you will have to make the sound reference to each colour, for example, the single tone is a primary colour (yellow, blue or red), while the double tonal sound comes from secondary colours (green, violent and orange), the mixture of primary colours. On the colour chart we used, you noticed that blue has the lowest pitch and yellow was the highest. The other colours have double tones because they represent the sound of the two or more primary colours used to make up that colour. Watch the video below to see and hear LUMO in action.

LUMO designer Anna demonstrates how it works.When exploring black lines or colours, the LUMO creates a vibration. The black and white LUMO reader vibrates to indicate lines. Our visually impaired participants were very impressed with the use and functionalities of LUMO and are also aware that the device is still in development.

LUMO is an affordable real-time solution which makes existing learning environments more inclusive, as well as enriching the interaction between blind and sighted students.

For more information about LUMO, visit their website at

Lumo at Design Museum 2

If you are keen to explore how LUMO works, or want to plan a multisensory tour around the LUMO device, please feel free to contact us via email at
You can also contact us via twitter at @mamomi_i

The next multisensory tour:
The next multisensory tour at Design Museum is scheduled for October 3 2015, and titled WALKING: A LIFESTYLE? This tour will explore walking as a lifestyle and will include a session exploring the shoe-making process, as well as a walk around the local area. Booking information will be published on Design Museum website soon so please keep watching for details.

Design Museum TourLUMO at Design Museum
All LUMO images used by permission. 2015

LIGHT, SOUND AND THE ENVIRONMENT: A new Design Museum multisensory tour

The Design Museum has designed a new series of multisensory tours and the first one in the series is scheduled to hold on Saturday 11 July 2015.

This July multisensory tour, titled Light, Sound andthe Environment, will explore how light and sound have been used to identify colour, and how we in turn respond to objects and items in the built environment.

Design Museum Tour. July 2015

The Design Museum continues to offer exhibition tours to its blind and visually impaired visitors, and this multisensory tour gives the opportunity to engage with objects from the museum’s Designs of the Year 2015 and Collection Lab.

Light, SoundandTheEnvironment takes place on Saturday 11 July 2015, at 14:00.

To book on this tour, please call +44 (0)20 7940 8782. You can also view their website for more information at

Tours are available free of charge, including museum entry, for groups of 2 – 6. Please call to discuss any specific needs.
The tours last approximately 1.5 hours and take place in the exhibition space.
Tours must be booked in advance.

Image and information used in collaboration with The Design Museum, London.


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