What does curb appeal look like on the fourth rock from the sun?
Maybe not the most top-of-mind element designers were faced with during NASA’s contest to design a 3D-printed habitat for Mars, but then again, it’s Mars. You’ve gotta go big or go back to Earth.
In 2015, NASA initiated a call for entries to design Mars-friendly, 3D-printable habitats, offering $100,000 to the winners and an opportunity to build a scale model of their idea. Now they’ve released the five finalists from that project, who will split the winnings and go on to build one-third size scale models to determine the feasibility of their designs.
Considering it's only been a few days since news of a liquid lake on Mars was making headlines, the lasting power of years-old designs remains to be seen. Other challenges designers had to consider, besides how to design for a climate and environment we know so little about, were transportation of materials, space for four astronauts and all their attendant research equipment, ability to withstand radiation and more, all while meeting space and weight restrictions.
No small task.
Coming in at first place is Team Zopherus from Arkansas, whose design makes use of local materials to create special concrete (and so includes a concrete mixer, housed in the insect-looking structure, along with the printer). The team posits that the materials will be able to withstand the environment better than what might come from Mother Earth. We don't want to be test subjects.
You can preview the entries from the runners-up, from New York, Mississippi and Illinois, below. The next phase of the competition is for each team to produce scale models of their design. The end goal, for NASA, is to colonize Mars as soon as 2033, so the space-time clock is ticking.