When NASA puts up a $2.25 million grant, rest assured that the challenge will measure up to the prize. Back in May, the space agency launched a competition for engineers to design and build a 3D-printed habitat that will advance space exploration.
NASA has already offered the first two awards amounting to a total of $40,000, rewarding the two teams for completing the first stage of the challenge. The most impressive project called the Mars Ice House won $25,000, and it includes a multi-layered pressurized structure of ice that encompasses gardens inside its habitat.
Mars Ice House’s official website explains why the team focused on water as the main resource for their futuristic outpost designed for extraterrestrial bodies. Considering that NASA has already set a direction in the ‘follow the water’ approach, the Ice House comes in as a logical extension to that concept into construction.
Still a pipe dream according to many, human habitation on the Martian surface is the ultimate beacon of light, a feature reflected in the architecture of Ice House. Driven by the imperative need to light the habitat’s interior, the designers came up with an icy structure that creates visual links to the landscape beyond.
Thanks to the layout devised by the Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office, not only does the water-ice material used for construction allow natural light to freely enter the habitat, but it also protects its dwellers against harmful radiation.
According to the statement published on the project’s website, the 3D-printing of the interior volume of ice is very well thought-of. Made up of “conceptually excavated or ‘hollowed-out’ programmatic spaces,” the habitat’s volume is separated in rooms and divisions.
The result is stunning: rounded rooms that enhance the illusion of boundlessness, making the small space of the habitat seem rather large. Moreover, the team has also included alternating color therapies, which stem out of the robotic printing integrated in the shell’s surface.
Second and third places also submitted impressive and innovative ideas. Team Gamma’s inflatable habitat won the second grant; the design includes a coat of Martian regolith. Third place on the stage went to Team LavaHive, which proposed a modular habitat design.
Currently, it’s economically infeasible to base colonies on Mars, considering that landing a pound of haul in Earth’s orbit costs roughly $10,000. This is where the challenge finds its importance, making NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program probably our best shot of ever enjoying the red view of Mars.
Image Source: Forbes