NASA has a plan for that pesky "finding building materials in space" problem, and they’re calling on all astro-architects to help.
We all need shelter, even deep space explorers. But packing enough materials and equipment to build a house on a faraway planet just takes up too much cargo room when traveling by spacecraft. Therefore, NASA and the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, came up with a novel idea: a 3-D printed habitat that can employ indigenous materials and other spacecraft materials that might otherwise go to waste.
And they are calling on the public to help. As part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, they have launched a $2.25 million competition – the 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge – to design and build 3-D printed shelters for deep space exploration, including travel to Mars.
The first phase of the competition, which runs through Sept. 27, asks participants to design high-end architectural concepts which put to best use the applications that 3-D printing offers. For their winning efforts, the top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.
"The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration," said Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager. "This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it."
Phase two includes two levels, according to NASA: The Structural Member Competition (Level 1) focuses on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The On-Site Habitat Competition (Level 2) challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables. Both levels open for registration Sept. 26, and each carries a $1.1 million prize.
For more information, see the 3-D-Printed Habitat Challenge.