While we’re still in the fledgling stages of 3D-printing homes here on Earth, NASA is already planning to use the technology to build places to live elsewhere in our solar system.
The space agency has been planning since 2014 to use 3D-printed structures to house the first Earthlings to reach Mars.
But rather than design it themselves, they decided the best means to find the optimal design was via competition – specifically, the 3D-Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge competition.
The competition is currently in its third and final phase – although that is broken up into five smaller aspects.
The most recent saw 18 teams create digital representations of the habitat they proposed to see created on Mars, with the largest caveat being they had to rely largely on materials that would already be found on the Red Planet.
The winners of this phase were announced in July, with each taking out a share of US$100,000 for their efforts.
The five talented teams were:
- Team Zopherus of Rogers, Arkansas – $20,957.95
- AI. SpaceFactory of New York – $20,957.24
- Kahn-Yates of Jackson, Mississippi – $20,622.74
- SEArch+/Apis Cor of New York – $19,580.97
- Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois – $17,881.10
“We are thrilled to see the success of this diverse group of teams that have approached this competition in their own unique styles,” said Monsi Roman, program manager for NASA’s Centennial Challenges.
“They are not just designing structures, they are designing habitats that will allow our space explorers to live and work on other planets. We are excited to see their designs come to life as the competition moves forward.”
And the competition is indeed moving forward, with the third phase culminating in May 2019 with teams physically constructing part of their design in an on-site competition held in Peoria, Illinois, USA.
Ultimately, the plan is to send a robot to Mars to build the most viable habitat ahead of the first humans arriving on the planet – which is expected at this stage to occur at some stage in the 2030s.