The Mars Exploration Mobile Unit promises an immersive experience of Martian life

October 19, 2018
Mars Exploration Mobile Unit

The Mars Exploration Mobile Environment, or MEME, is a speculative future living space for the demonstration of possible living and working conditions on Mars in the year 2175.

Currently being built by ASU MFA candidate Roy Wasson Valle in an empty trailer interior, it will one day be a mobile exhibit that will help the public imagine life on Mars in a way that engages all five senses.

Roy Wasson Valle first came to the project as an intern at ASU’s MKRServices. When the MEME project’s first team fell through, Wasson Valle stepped in. Though his previous work as an artist was fantasy-based, he knew he could leverage his past experience in large-scale installations to create something both highly imaginative and scientifically accurate.

Since starting the project, Wasson Valle has worked with a team of three dedicated volunteers to convert the small trailer into the stuff of science fiction. Built to house three residents for up to two weeks at a time on the surface of Mars, the MEME (or Mar-V, as Wasson Valle’s wife has dubbed it), is slowly taking shape in the School of Art Sculpture Warehouse.

Wasson Valle and his team have made efficient use of the tiny space. Inhabitants will enter through an airlock and hang up their suits in a designated compartment. They will clean up in a compact bathroom with a standing shower and toilet, and rest in staggered bunk units with personal storage space. Research will be done at a small science station, complete with an isolation chamber for examining samples from the planet’s surface. There is even space for a stationary bicycle. To prepare for the possibility of MEME villages, the emergency exit will double as a connector to other MEMEs.

To make the MEME a fully immersive experience, even the color scheme will aim to fulfill human sensory needs. According to Wasson Valle, the temptation when choosing colors is frequently to mimic the landscape—which for Mars would mean a gray and red palette. But humans need visual stimulation in the MEME that will counteract the monochrome landscape of Mars, so the space will be painted mostly blue and green. Wasson Valle also pointed out that counterintuitively, pictures of Earth tend to make homesickness worse. Instead, the team will hang beautiful fractal patterns on the wall to mimic Earth’s landscape.

The MEME is part of the broader Interplanetary Initiative pilot project Five Senses in Space, led by Dr. Tanya Harrison. It is just one component in the effort to galvanize public and private support for space exploration by encapsulating the experience of space for the average person. The project will allow members of the public to experience life on Mars and imagine the possibilities for future space exploration.

Interested in working on the MEME project? Volunteers with experience in electronics and lighting are needed! Contact Roy Wasson Valle at

Alyssa Roby, Interplanetary Initiative

Mars Exploration Mobile Unit

Mars Exploration Mobile Unit