Ikea is helping to redesign simulated Mars habitats

Ikea believes its approach to making small spaces more liveable applies even on other planets: The company has been working with an Earth-based research facility that is meant to mimic what a Mars habitat would be like, according to Fast Company. Originally, Ikea sent a designer to the station to seek inspiration for creating functional furniture for small apartments — but it quickly became a two-way street, which could mean the Swedish home furnishing company has a say in how future human colonists live on other planets.

As detailed by FastCo, Ikea designer Christina Levenborn spent time living in the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, which is situated in a desert and designed to feel as close as possible to the experience of living and working on the actual Red Planet. At any given time, there are usually a number of these types of simulated research projects going on, taking crews of volunteers and putting them into a simulated work/life scenario to help us prepare for when astronauts do the real thing. NASA is hoping to begin establishing a more permanent human presence on the Moon by 2024, which means this work could have real-world applications in space sooner rather than later.

Levenborn did indeed design an Ikea collection inspired by her time in the habitat, but she and others at Ikea returned the favor as well, coming up with organizational strategies and interior design layouts that emphasized a sense of privacy and personal space even in very cramped quarters, using Ikea shelving units and modular, wheeled furniture for flexibility and tidiness. Warm lighting and outdoor equipment for indoor use also contributed to making the habitat more… well, habitable.

That Ikea’s approach to making small spaces more liveable on Earth would apply off-Earth, too, is hardly surprising. But it is a good example of contributions to ongoing efforts to help humans set up research and experimentation facilities on the Moon, Mars and beyond.