Consultants from Faber Maunsell have been asked by NASA for advice on space station design, as the US space agency researches the possibility of a manned mission to Mars.

=The two-man team Faber Maunsell sent to Antarctica to carry out design work on the Halley VI research base has been approached by NASA, which wants to use their experiences of living in an extreme environment to help with the mission.

Mike Maslin, a director at Faber Maunsell, said he and project director Peter Ayres had already spoken to the Americans about how to design for improved living conditions on a space station.

He said: "We were contacted by someone who does research for NASA on living and working in remote environments. We talked about how to survive in extreme environments and found out that there are a surprising number of parallels between surviving in Antarctica and astronauts going to Mars."

He continued: "We discussed how much physical space a person would require when living and working in an extreme environment."

The NASA team also wanted to learn how to deal with everyday problems such as producing drinking water and how to repair components that get worn out.

Maslin said the meeting was successful and there were plans to continue the working relationship. He said: "There has been talk of seeing them again and they are pleased with the meeting we had.

"There are so few projects of this type around that the shelf-life of knowledge diminishes very quickly. We are considered very up-to-date."

Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects won the competition to design the Halley VI Research Station in Antarctica last July.