MAY 18, 2015 03:10 PM PDT

NASA Holds Contest To Print Extra-terrestrial Habitats For Humanity

So we're going to Mars, at some point. Well, once we get there we're going to need habitats, as in housing that's air tight and well insulted. And if it could be meteorite and radiation proof too, that would be great. Okay, so we'll just send a bunch of sacks of dry concrete and a few hundred thousand gallons of water up into orbit to put on a ship to go to - wait a minute. That stuff's all really, really heavy, and at the current rate of $10,000 a pound to send things into orbit, that, well, let's see, carry the two, well, that could pretty much bankrupt NASA right there. So, what to do? Astronauts gotta have houses, right? Well, you know that cool 3D printing technology that people have been doing all sorts of absurd stuff with, like, you know, printing plastic guns, and models of the Millennium Falcon? Well, it turns out 3D might have a far more useful job it could do. NASA, along with an organization called the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes are holding a competition to see if someone can come up with a 3D printed habitat to be used for space exploration on the surface of, say Mars, or maybe on the moon or a moon of Saturn or Jupiter. The prize for the winner of the contest is 2.25 million dollars.

A lunar construction robot prints a road on the moon

So what would a 3D printer use to make this habitat, well no one's interested in hefting giant printer cartridges filled with tons of cement inside them into orbit and then landing them on Mars, so people are looking toward materials that might already be on Mars, like say, martian sand, or maybe parts of spaceships that, once used to get folks down to the surface were just going to be junk littering the martian surface. Contestants are looking at ways to process these materials, feed them into an industrial 3D printer and have it create a martian building.

There will be two phases to the competition. The first phase will focus just on contestants' ability to use the unique possibilities of 3D printing to create unique pieces of architecture. The top 30 submissions will compete for a prize of $50,000.



The second phase of the competition will focus more specifically on space and will have two levels. Level 1 will focus on participants' abilities to develop the fabrication techniques necessary for habitat construction on other planetary bodies, and how to use materials that are already there (wherever there might happen to be). Level 2 will focus on the actual 3D printed habitats themselves. Each of these levels will award 1.1 million dollars to the winner.


(Sources: phys.org, Wikipedia)
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
NOV 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 19, 2018
Kepler Scientists Reflect on the Now Retired Mission
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope recently ran out of fuel, preventing it from aligning its antenna toward Earth and maintaining communication. NASA knew...
NOV 25, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 25, 2018
NASA's RRM3 Will Bring Us One Step Closer to In-Space Refueling
Possessing the ability to refuel spacecraft in outer space isn’t just something you’ve seen in your favorite science fiction movies, it’s...
DEC 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
DEC 09, 2018
After a Slight Delay, SpaceX's Christmas Delivery Arrives at the ISS
Three days after the official launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, a SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Saturday with a sp...
DEC 19, 2018
Technology
DEC 19, 2018
Deep Learning Improves Cloud Detection Methods
To understand the workings of earth systems, atmospheric scientists often search data images for the clouds as part of their research. However, the manual...
JAN 09, 2019
Microbiology
JAN 09, 2019
Space Bacteria Are Adapting to Survive
Microorganisms that end up on the International Space Station just do their best to survive, researchers have found....
JAN 08, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 08, 2019
Learn About the Advanced Technologies Packed Into the Mars 2020 Rover
NASA has sent a lot of spacecraft to Mars to explore the red planet for clues about its formation and suitability for life, but the upcoming Mars 2020 rove...
Loading Comments...