It’s a fixer-upper of a planet but we could make it work. – Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX
Humans have an inherent fascination with outer space, and with the recent announcement about flowing water, all eyes are now on Mars. Just in time, it seems, NASA and America Makes held its recent competition for the best and most feasible 3D printed rendering of a Mars habitat.
The competition focused on 3D printing, which is the specialty of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, America Makes, according to NASA. Registration began May 16, 2015, and winners were announced September 27.
Of the 30 finalists, Foster + Partners, an innovative, global architecture and design firm, held their own until nearly the last. They didn’t win, but their plans show what life on Mars might really be like one day.
Foster + Partners’ Modular Habitat
Many of the entries in the competition used a modular theme. Foster + Partners was the same in that respect. Their entry consisted of a connected pod-type settlement, with different pods for work and living quarters. It’s not unlike something you’d see in an episode of Star Trek, and it’s reminiscent of some of the interiors at Disney’s Spaceship Earth theme park attraction.
At about 93 scm, the pod settlement factored in human psychology and physiology to help its prospective occupants live more comfortably. Each pod cluster could house 4 astronauts, with communal areas and private living quarters, says Architect magazine. Interior furnishings, virtual environments, and the overall design would help alleviate monotony and provide a more positive experience for workers who truly can’t go home for the weekend.
Watch the Foster + Partners video showcasing their design here:
How to Build on Mars
A design is one thing, but how would the pods get there? To some degree, they’re already there. At least the foundation is. The Foster + Partners design would use semi-autonomous robots to excavate small craters for the pod sites, and inflatable pods would fit inside. Then using a technology not unlike 3D printing, Martian soil would be fused around the pods to secure and protect them. They almost look like Adobe structures.
This type of build would protect the pods from the temperature and radiation extremes that come with living on the Red Planet. With Martian soil forming a protective barrier around the pods, and the pods themselves nestled into craters, the astronauts would have more security and stability. And because the construction work is repetitive and not highly technical, if one robot breaks down another can take its place without much assistance from Earth.
NASA and America Makes Select a Winner
Foster + Partners might not have won the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, but they held their own for quite a while. They were among 30 finalists, from which 3 winners were selected on September 27. The top team was Team Space, which was awarded $25,000 for their entry.
All teams that participated in the challenge were judged on innovation, concept, habitability, functionality and design approach. And there appear to be more competitions yet to come. NASA says this marked the “first milestone of the 3D printed challenge,” which promoted the development of manufacturing with native materials, whether on Earth or in space.
Check out all of the finalists here:
Life on Mars might not be right around the corner, but NASA is still as forward thinking as ever. Not only are they active in fostering innovation, they’re looking to cutting-edge technology to make it happen.
How would you design for living on Mars? Architects just like you are thinking about that very thing today. To stay competitive, you have to stay on top of your game. That’s where PDH Academy comes in. Check out our courses for architects when your next credit hours are due.