If The Martian has taught us anything, it’s that surviving on Mars won’t be easy. It’s really cold, there’s practically no oxygen in the atmosphere, no food, no water, and it pummels you with radiation. NASA plans to send the first humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s, and if they want to come back alive, they’re gonna need a good, self-sustaining shelter.
Perhaps that’s why the space agency has teamed up with the additive manufacturing institute America Makes to host a competition to design a space habitat. Real architects and engineers were among the contestants. Now the judges have chosen 30 designs to move on to the next stage, and the selection includes some pretty rad concepts.
The goal of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is to design a habitat that could be built with 3D printers using local materials or a mission’s waste products. “The vision,” says the website, “is that autonomous habitat manufacturing machines will someday be deployed to the Moon or Mars to construct shelters for human habitation.” Although 3D printing is hardly ready to go to space, it’s never too early to start planning ahead.
Contestants were challenged to design a living space for a hypothetical set of four astronauts. The 1000-square-foot habitat would need to contain life support systems, bathrooms, cooking areas, and sleeping quarters.
The designs are pretty detailed, including the “locations of electrical outlets, fluid supplies and drains, and ventilation registers should be included.” Contestants also had to set aside at least three areas for life support systems, measuring 45 cubic feet apiece, to provide clean air and water and regulate pressure and temperature.
The top 30 designs have been selected, and may be whittled down before the final judging at New York City’s Maker Faire at the end of September. The first, second, and third place winners will take home $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively.