Nina’s design and construction of Panoption on Mars
Even in ancient civilisations, September was celebrated as the month of harvest, when people collected and stored everything they’d grown in the preceding months. It is the month where we experience a reduction in daylight – the days rapidly become shorter and, subconsciously or otherwise, we are all preparing for the wrapping up of the season and grand finale of the year.
The truth is, I wasn’t consciously thinking about any of this in September. I was completing the design and creating my concept of how to travel to Mars for free. There was no day or night for me, as engineers for my concept were based all over the world in different time zones, and it was me who was adjusting to other times.
The whole concept is based on the ‘panopticon’ – Jeremy Bentham’s concept of the prison. This idea will not be accepted with universal endorsement among my colleagues in the space community. I knew that, for one reason – because it is actually a prison, albeit a prison that has been proven to work as the best example of how to look after inmates. I realised that people probably wouldn’t pay any attention to the fact that the panopticon is a successful model; in the past century alone, two have been built in Cuba and in 2006 a digital one opened in Amsterdam.
I am very passionate about building a panopticon on Mars! I considered so many things, including who would be travelling there, what they would be doing there, their needs on a day-to-day basis, and how they would exercise in a lethal environment, where going out means a lack of oxygen and solar radiation killing human cells.
I also considered the materials needed – what would be the most effective way to house them on the way from Earth to Mars? Can we bring nanotechnology with us to the red planet? Considering all of that plus an effective design meant that my team was built of engineers, high-tech experts, and even a visual artist. Working alongside him extended the creativity of the concept. I wanted this kind of chair, this kind of table, thinking about what colours go well with red and orange and grey, bearing in mind that at night Mars appears turquoise.
The project was a lot of effort; I’ve been working on it for two years and I am personally investing in it. Am I building my second home on Mars, while most people struggle to buy their first home on Earth? A bit vulgar, you might think, although I must say that homes on Earth don’t come for granted either, as I know from what happened to my family.
I’m from an old family. My mother’s side were big landowners. Before the Second World War, their land spread from the north of Ljubljana by the river Sava towards Navje cemetery. The whole neighbourhood was built on my ancestors’ land; one of the famous areas is now called BS3.
When the war ended, Communism brought big changes. One day, police and council representatives walked into my Oma’s large house and took two floors of it. They immediately moved in two families, who were able to use Oma’s furniture and all of her belongings. The Communist regime had decided that Oma didn’t need such a big house, so they nationalised it; they also ruled that she didn’t need the land and forests, so they nationalised those as well.
Every day, Oma walked from her first-floor kitchen up to her third-floor bedroom, passing two floors of people using her furniture and living their own lives. For 30 years she battled with the council to separate the floors into proper apartments, so they could have peace from each other.
When Slovenia became independent in the 1990s and the Communist era was finally over, Oma was still alive. Everyone claimed back what had been nationalised. Well, unfortunately Oma was 96 years old, and she didn’t quite agree with the whole concept. I begged her to claim everything back, as did my cousins, but she decided to punish us for some reason.
She said to me that I had two arms, two legs and a head on my neck and I would figure out what to do with my life. At least she should have claimed the land back, I thought, but she wouldn’t… Did Oma ever think that I would try to build a home on Mars, so I didn’t need family land and properties on Earth?
While I was finalising my Mars building project, my mailbox was building up with very positive emails. I was accepted for all four talks I submitted the papers for. I could consider that family karma…
At the beginning of the summer I’d promised I’d give a talk at the opening of the technology conference in Slovenia. I forgot about this one, so this was now my fifth talk, and on top of that The British Interplanetary Society asked me to join a panel for them.
All the talks were scheduled over a two-week period in four different countries, one of them on a different continent. And they were all during the BFI Film Festival, which for me is the highlight of the year. How was I going to do that? Where did I put my broom?!