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NASA Awards the Best Designs for a 3-D Printed Mars Habitat

NASA Awards the Best Designs for a 3D Printed Mars Habitat

The movie The Martian could become a reality if the designers in a recent NASA challenge are involved. During the recent 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition at the New York Maker Faire, the winners created a “Mars Ice House.” The character in the movie was stranded on Mars and could’ve benefited from such a habitat.

The competition is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program, which aims to engage the public in the process of developing advanced technology. This particular competition asked participants to develop ideas that use 3-D printing. They asked them to create what they think habitats on Mars could be like if they were able to use advanced technology features to build them. They also asked that designers try to incorporate local materials as well as recycled materials that they may have in space or that they may have brought from Earth, such as the spacecraft itself.

The first-place winners, Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office won $25,000 for their unique designs. They created a pyramid-shaped design that would be built of Martian ice. Their 3-D printing technique used the physics of water and phase transition.

The inside and outside of the habitat would be ribbed and glow with different colors based on the time of day (sol) on the planet. For instance, during sunset it is blue and at high noon it is pink. The team said the glow concept would encourage solitary contemplation thereby nurturing the well-being of its inhabitants.

The habitat would also have a radiation shield that would protect the people inside as well as any gardens enclosed in it. Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field so its radiation levels are higher than on Earth.

The second place entry was from a team that designed a modular, inflatable habitat with a protective shield. It was considered the most practical because it allows room for modifications should problems arise during a mission. The third-place group created a model that would use recycled materials from the landing craft.

The manager of the Centennial Challenges Program, Monsi Roman, was impressed with the creativity and innovation of the teams who submitted designs.

“These teams were not only imaginative and artistic with their entries, but they also really took into account the life-dependent functionality our future space explorers will need in an off-Earth habitat,” he said.

The teams were judged on factors including the architectural concept, approach to design, innovation, and 3-D print constructability. The habitats were also judged on their livability and functionality.

There were 165 entries submitted to the contest. The 30 highest-scoring entries were judged and displayed at the recent Maker Faire event in New York City. You can check out the entries here.

For more information about the Centennial Challenges Program and upcoming contests, visit their website.

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