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Sol Journal – November 30th

November 30, 2016

Dare Demo Dome or the dome for everyone

A few days ago, I have experienced what it is like to build the small dome in the spacesuit. The parts of the dome made it all the way through from Japan. Five years ago, our executive officer Yusuke Murakami started his workshop with elementary school kids about enjoying the construction and learning the building of the shelter. He showed the small model of the dome and gave the material for the children to work with. Only newspaper, duct tape and paper rope. When resources are limited people can be more creative. Yusuke learned it from his 15 months Antarctic expedition experience. And the kids were creative, spending hours trying to build the best paper house. Yusuke not only taught kids but also learned from them. The kids gave him the understanding of how to build together using simple language. The workshop became very popular and in few years transformed into a grown up dome project. 

In 2015 a big earthquake happened in Nepal. By this time, Yusuke developed the plastic dome and thought it can be used as an emergency shelter for the victims of the earthquake. It is light, keeps warmth inside, easy to cut, easy to fold and cheap. The parts can fit into personal luggage in terms of size and weight. Japanese people wanted to help the victims of earthquake but didn’t know how. Yusuke proposed to them to make the dome parts, send it to him and he would carry it to Nepal. The instructions were sent to people all around Japan and they started to prepare the dome parts. Yusuke could cooperate remotely with them and created the human center design for help and support. He arrived to Nepal with dome parts, which needed to be assembled and started to teach local people how to do it. They didn’t speak English and the language barrier interfered the assembling process. But Yusuke was patient enough and day by day he bonded with the locals. They started to talk the language of shared experience. Not only local people gained new knowledge, but Yusuke, himself learned from them. Even though people of Nepal mostly uneducated, they showed many creative ideas during the process of assembling. Yusuke just gave the basic instructions and then they could change the way to build the dome. He left one dome in each of the eight villages up in the mountains and people could live there while building new houses. It benefited three parties: the victims of the earthquake, people, who learned how to make the dome parts and Yusuke.

This experience proved the point that simple things are better to use, more people can engage into process and spread the idea around the world. Yusuke found it useful for the space architecture. Simple assembling processes are safe for an astronaut. Almost every architect who is asked to design space modules, habitats uses complicated forms. This kind of space architecture exposes astronauts to a danger when assembling the complex space modules. Moreover, it is time consuming. Yusuke wanted to analyze how the assembling process of the dome in the space suits at Mars simulated environment would go. He arrived to the Mars Desert Research Station with upgraded version of the dome. Now it has bigger size – 4 meters in diameter and 2 meters high.  Let me tell you it was the hardest EVA for the crew. Usually it takes maximum one hour to assemble the dome, but for the constructors in the spacesuits it became nearly four hours of hard work. The main idea behind the dome experiment was to gain information from different people and different environments. Based on this data he will improve the design of the dome project. But there is also a philosophical implication – the dome can connect a ten years old kid to an old man from Nepal to Japanese engineer and to the future Mars astronauts. Somehow, for Yusuke people from Nepal, which do not have their space program, became a part of space world through building the same dome that we build at Mars Station.

On our construction EVA, whenever I had the difficulties, I imagined the beautiful mountains of Nepal, inspired faces of Japanese kids and the shinning surfaces of domes on Mars. Yes, we are all connected!

“If we learn more, we need less” – Yusuke Murakami