Want To Go To Mars? You Might Change Your Mind At The Design Museum's Colossal New Exhibition

Moving to Mars, Design Museum ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 24 months ago

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Want To Go To Mars? You Might Change Your Mind At The Design Museum's Colossal New Exhibition Moving to Mars, Design Museum 4
Here's our destination. Image credit: Ed Reeve

Would you want to be one of the first humans to live on Mars? Sure, you’d be a pioneer, but perhaps the lack of a breathable atmosphere and -55° days are enough to put you off. If you want to find out whether you've got what it takes, head to Design Museum’s futuristic exhibition on the Red Planet.

Before propelling us into the future, the exhibition first takes us back to 1,000BC, with a cuneiform tablet showing observations of Mars — it seems we've always had our eye on our neighbour, long before modern technology put it almost within reach.

Films have always been fascinated with Mars. Posters from the kitschy Devil Girl From Mars, the memory-wiping Total Recall and the slightly more realistic The Martian all offer alternate ideas of what to expect from the inhospitable surface.

No,Jeff Bezos hasn't beaten us there — this is just a recreation of the Martian surface using NASA imagery. Image: Felix Spellerfor the Design Museum

Grounded more in the real world is a three-screen recreation of the Martian surface using NASA images. Stand and immerse yourself in what to expect from Mars as a simulated dust storm rolls across the screen. In  a real Martian scenario, those dust particles could get into your lungs — and they happen to be toxic too. That space suit is definitely staying on.

It would take 22 minutes for a signal to reach home from Mars, which is a long wait if you come across a problem — heck, that's a long wait to upload that Mars selfie to Instagram. There would be no comforts brought from home and all construction would have to be made from Martian materials, which would need to protect us from all the cosmic radiation. Is your desire to head to Mars waning yet?

The show contains a selection of rover models from the European Space Agency. Image: Ed Reeve

What affirms the fact that Mars is not for me is knowing that the journey could take anywhere between 150-300 days. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has remarked 'it will be a good time to finish War and Peace'. Even less appealing is the idea of being in a confined space with the same people months on end, eating the same food and having to shower with what amounts to a sophisticated sponge — the situation does not make for a happy traveller.

Some snazzy infographics highlight all the failed, successful and planned missions to Mars, and it's surprising to learn that 76 countries have a space programme and 13 have launch capabilities — even if only three are capable of sending humans into space. The exhibition includes a collection of models of Mars rovers, including one that the European Space Agency plans to send to Mars next year. Just wandering this exhibition brings home the reality that a Mars mission could happen in our lifetime.

Is this the future of Martian fashion? Image: Felix Spellerfor the Design Museum

There is so much material in this exhibition that you could easily spend two hours perusing it all — looking inside model houses, trying out recycled furniture, checking out Martian garments and learning how astronauts go to the toilet on the International Space Station (although that last one may be too much information). Even with so much covered, the exhibition poses many questions. What happens if a private individual like Elon Musk is the first man on Mars — would he control who gets to go there? Will Mars be a stepping stone to colonising other planets? Will anyone who goes to Mars ever be able to come back?

Who knows, maybe someone reading this review right now will one day set foot on a rocky red surface and look up at a sky with two moons. Just that thought alone should be enough to get any visitor excited about this exhibition, and there's a lot more here to keep them riveted.

Moving to Mars is on at Design Museum until 23 February 2020. Tickets are £12-18 for adults and cheaper in the first few weeks of the exhibition.

Last Updated 18 October 2019