NASA has released some images of possible homes where astronauts can live during their long stay in Mars. The concept house, dubbed the Mars Ice Dome, would use ice as building material to provide shelters that can protect humans from the harsh environment of the Red Planet.

The house would be a big inflatable torus. Its shape would be similar to an inner tube, which would be surrounded by ice when inflated. The house can be set up by robots. It will be filled with water before the crew lands on the planet.

Experts say that the water is capable of providing protection against radiation. Apparently, without protection, the galactic cosmic rays can damage a person’s cells and DNA, increasing the risk of developing cancer as well as acute radiation sickness.

“The materials that make up the Ice Home will have to withstand many years of use in the harsh Martian environment, including ultraviolet radiation, charged-particle radiation, possibly some atomic oxygen, perchlorates, as well as dust storms – although not as fierce as in the movie ‘The Martian’,” added Sheila Ann Thibeault, a researcher at Langley. The lightweight concept house would also use Martian materials. NASA adds that the structure can also be used as storage tank for water that can be converted to rocket fuel for the Mars Ascent Vehicle.

The scientists estimate that it would take 400 days for the house to be completely filled with water taken from Mars when it would be done at a rate of 35.3 cubic feet each day. However, this process can sped up if there would be more extractable water on the planet.

The house would also use translucent materials so crew members can enjoy daylight, which is aimed to make them feel like they’re in a home not a cave. When the Mars Ice Dome would be ready, it would also include a space where the crews can service robotic equipment indoors. It would also have a carbon dioxide gas layer that will stand as insulation between the ice and the living space. The gas will also be gathered in Mars.