Although a recent NASA-supported study found Mars cannot be made inhabitable with our current technology, this hasn't stopped the space agency from continuing its plans to one day colonize the red planet. One such initiative launched in 2015 is the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.
The $2.5 million competition, now in its third phase, seeks to find the most adequate housing for future Martian residents. The challenge also hopes to uncover advanced construction technologies that may be used in sustainable housing solutions for Earth as well.
Five winning teams revealed
Now, NASA and its competition partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, have selected the five winning teams out of 18 submissions from around the world. The winners will share the $100,000 prize and will have to create 3D-printed one-third-scale versions of their designs to confirm their models' feasibility.
3D-Printed Habitat Challenge Award: We have selected the top 5 teams in the first virtual modeling phase. They will each receive a share of the $100,000 prize purse, based on points earned. Congratulations, teams!https://t.co/lj9IqYeZA3— Centennial Challenge (@NASAPrize) July 23, 2018
“We are thrilled to see the success of this diverse group of teams that have approached this competition in their own unique styles,” said in a statement 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.”
Inspiring digital representations
The top five teams created some impressive digital representations illustrating all the key characteristics of their hopeful Martian homes. First-place winner team Zopherus from Rogers, Arkansas, showcased a model with a powerful printer that could deploy roaming rovers to retrieve materials.
Second place winner Team AI. SpaceFactory of New York called their submission Marsha and indicated their design would be built sustainably with local as well as mission-generated materials.
Team Kahn-Yates of Jackson, Mississippi, won third place with their uniquely durable model created to withstand even the red planet's harshest of dust storms.
Fourth place went to team SEArch+/Apis Cor of New York for their cube-like model conceived to provide reliable radiation shielding.
Finally, the last prize was awarded to Northwestern University of Evanston, Illinois, for their spherical shell model featuring an outer dome reminiscent of Star Wars featured habitats.
All designs took into consideration the many challenges of building habitats on Mars including the transportation of materials, the harshness of the planet's landscape and the complexities of its atmosphere. The winners showed novel ingenuity in coming up with a variety of solutions to these multi-faceted difficulties while incorporating a mix of indigenous and recycled construction material sources.
“We are encouraging a wide range of people to come up with innovative designs for how they envision a habitat on Mars,” said Lex Akers, dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology at Bradley University, NASA’s partner in this challenge. Mission accomplished!