The structure is essentially a series of nested ice shells. A novel "front yard" pocket between the structure's outer shell and interior domes will allow Mars astronauts to experience a "truly unique protected neutral zone that is not entirely interior or exterior." Just inside the front yard, a lush hydroponic garden will provide both food and oxygen to the structure's residents.
PHOTOS: Real NASA Space Tech in ‘The Martian'
Ongoing NASA research focuses on the potential negative effects of long-term spaceflight on the human mind and body - concerns that were not lost on the team behind the concept. Constructing the habitat from ice will allow natural light to enter the structure while still adequately protecting its inhabitants from solar and galactic radiation.
"While scientists have experimented with what could potentially be synthetic replacements for sunlight, artificial substitutes do not hold nearly the same circadian variance or ability to balance a crew's mental and physical health as does experiencing the sun's actual and unmediated daily cycles," the project's website explains.