Designing the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) 

Collaboration with NASA 

In the year 2030 NASA plans to send Astronauts to the Planet Mars and have them return safely back to Earth as part of the "Evolvable Mars Campaign". Working in collaboration with experienced Astronauts at NASA, our design team was tasked to research, predict and push the limits of a space craft that could meet the strict guidelines from NASA as well as consider the user experience on the MAV and on the surface of Mars. We were asked to design creative and innovative concepts for The Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) cabin through a human centered design approach. "The MAV will launch a Martian surface sample into Low Mars Orbit where the sample will await a ride home to Earth. The Mars ascent vehicle must be developed to survive a variety of conditions including the trans Mars journey, Martian entry descent and landing, and the harsh Martian surface environments while maintaining the ability to deliver its payload to Low Mars Orbit". ( Below are some images of the prototype we made to test human experience and specs. We used rendering techniques to convey detailed systems in our design.


The design goals

Define the smallest credible MAV cabin capable of supporting four 99th percentile male astronauts.

Provide enough space for 250kg of martian samples, required systems,  and life support.

Support a 16 hour - 5 day mission 



Sketching Process


Scale Prototypes 



To reduce the dead space in the MAV, the exterior shape is asymmetrical and slants upwards in the front to allow the commander and pilot to reach the control panel that is located at the top. This configuration maximizes the volume of the form. Utilizing a composite material is a more efficient application for the form due to its organic shape.


Hatch Placement

The top hatch is used for docking purposes. The window is located next to the top hatch as well. The side hatch is used for initial loading purposes from Mars/emergency docking.


Control Panel and  Storage

Most of the controls are located in the front of the MAV for the commander and pilot to easily access. Lighting are located around the top of the hatch to provide overhead lighting. Storage buckles secure stowage safely for take off and orbit.


Waste disposal system 

The Toilet and trash systems are housed in the back left side of the MAV. Both systems share a storage container on the board the MAV. A curtain is extended when the MAV bathroom is in use. This gives the user a better and more private experience. 


Work in progress : 1 to 1 scale model


Full Scale Prototype 


Both space pod concepts are on display in the Natural History Museum of Rhode Island