These five 3D-printed habitats could be the future homes of Mars

30 Jul 2018

Team Zopherus of Rogers, Arkansas, earns first place in NASA’s 3D-printed habitat challenge. Image: NASA/Team Zopherus

When astronauts eventually land on the surface of Mars, they might live out their time there in one of these five habitats.

The day when we see a human being set foot on Mars seems further away then ever as timelines change and space agency budgets get cut.

But the dream is still alive, and NASA is preparing for the eventual colonising of the Red Planet with the revealing of five 3D-printed habitat designs that could one day be used by astronauts.

Launched in 2014, the Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge asked teams to design habitats capable of housing four astronauts and complex machinery in a 93 sq m space.

With its very thin atmosphere, freezing temperatures and barren landscape, any future Mars colonists will need to quickly build this habitat, hence why NASA has required all entries to be 3D-printed.

All entrants submitted architectural renderings, and NASA has selected five winning entries to move on to the next stage of the competition.

Sharing a $100,000 prize, the five winning teams in order were: Team Zopherus, AI SpaceFactory, Kahn Yates, SEARrch +/Apis Cor and Northwestern University of Evanston.

Roaming spider printer

In an intriguing video, Team Zopherus’ concept showed off a spider lander concept that would land in a chosen location and build itself in the available space.

Once under construction, a fleet of autonomous robots would be released to gather the necessary materials to build the structure within its sealed and pressurised core.

When one structure is built, the spider could then move to another spot and go through the same process again.

Speaking of the five teams’ success, Monsi Roman, programme manager for the competition, said: “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.”

The teams are now set the challenge of actually testing their designs in the real world using a scale model one-third the size of the final concept.

You can check out the videos of the four other entries below.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic