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August 9, 2018

America’s biggest housing challenge will be 3D-printing a home on Mars


By now everyone seems to know about NASA’s goal to land a human crew on Mars and explore the red planet.

However, we also know NASA doesn’t want to stop there. It wants humans to colonize not only Mars, but also the moon and be able to live on any other body we decide to visit. Staying long-term in a hostile environment is impossible without proper shelter — a habitat that can not only withstand harsh alien climates, but also protect the humans within.

To that end, NASA is conducting the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a competition where teams worldwide design and build sustainable shelters for human colonists on Mars. The challenge, which began in 2014, consists of several phases:

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Phase 1, the Design Competition, required teams to submit architectural renderings and was completed in 2015. ($50,000 prize purse.)

Phase 2, the Structural Member Competition, focused on material technologies and required teams to create structural components. It was completed in 2017 and featured a $1.1 million prize purse.

Phase 3 (current), the On-Site Habitat Competition, challenges competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats and has five levels of competition — three construction and two virtual. For the virtual levels part, teams must use building information modeling software to design a habitat that combines allowances for both the structure and the systems it must contain. The construction levels challenge the teams to autonomously 3D-print elements of the habitat, culminating in a one-third-scale printed habitat. The prize purse for this phase is $2 million.

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