Mars Colonization: NASA’s New Take
A New Take On Colonizing Mars And Other Planets
A new NASA-sponsored competition hopes to unlock the secrets of space colonization through user-submitted design proposals.
Called the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, NASA hopes that the competition will help to, “develop the fundamental technologies necessary to manufacture an off-world habitat using mission recycled materials and/or local indigenous materials.”
NASA continues, “The vision is that autonomous habitat manufacturing machines will someday be deployed to the Moon or Mars to construct shelters for human habitation;” a lot of fancy speech for a simple idea: using 3D-Printers to build structures using materials which already exist on the planet.
NASA goes so far as to speculate that the same concept, if such an idea is feasible enough, could be applied to life here on planet Earth.
“[These technologies] could be used to produce housing wherever affordable housing (would be) needed (where) access to conventional building materials and skills (are) limited.”
There are several designs that have so far made it to the finalist round. Feel free to check out the competition on NASA’s official tumblr challenge page, though we want to highlight a few of the ‘more interesting’ ones here for our audience.
The Mass Dome: Team Mass
A 3D printed Martian habitat using laser created regolith sinter, essentially a shell of planetary material that has been hardened to create the structure. The team explains that their design incorporates a swarm of robots using a combination of 3D-printed structures made from in-situ resources and hard structures transported from Earth. It would assemble habitable confines consisting of a ground level where the science station, exercise room, and workshop reside, as well as a lower level where astronauts could sleep and spend their downtime.
Crowning the main 3D-printed dome is a cupola with large windows, and within the dome itself is a 3D-printed spiral staircase that enables outside observations while contoured surfaces channel light through the habitat to promote astronaut well-being; this, all the while implementation of high ceilings and gentle curves is meant to give the illusion of a larger space.
The Radicle: Team Parallax
The Radicle is a proposed expandable modular system that when planted, utilizes local resources to grow a base for scientific research and exploration. This concept consists of a 2-part system of construction, and is further based on a 3-armed geometry.
The 1st phase involves pre-fabricated, foldable envelopes which deploy from the landing capsule when pressurized to earth-like atmospheric conditions, creating a wing for living and another wing for working. Both wings are meant to be joined by a landing capsule that doubles as an intermediary airlock between each wing and the Martian environment.
The 2nd phase, a cementitious shell, would be 3D-printed from local Martian resources and both insulates against extreme temperatures while shields the inner envelope of the habitat from radiation, sandstorms, and debris.
Oroborous: Team Digital Structures
Using the shared symbol of ancient cultures, the Oroborous is “the embodiment of the infinite process of recreation,” according to team Digital Structures. Their proposed materials processing unit, or combination of 3D CNC loom and pultrusion module, would, “apply emerging technologies to synthesize a pressurized and climate controlled living space from Martian resources.”
Using Martian soil and air, once processed, can transformed into glass and plastic fibers; can be woven and pultruded into a strong, airtight composite shell; integrating structure, insulation, air barrier, radiant heating, and ambient lighting within a singular structural surface. A CNC loom, “forms the thermoset textiles into a global toroidal shape by combining pultrusion with 3-dimensional textile weaving. The lightweight tensile shell of the habitat takes full advantage of the reduced Martian pressure and gravity, allowing for minimal material usage and maximal reconfigurability of the interior.”
These are just a few of the many designs. Check out the rest for yourself and you might just stumble upon the future of human space colonization.
What are your thoughts? Should the future of humanity be outsourced to internet users? Is this a brilliant step in the evolution of science? Join in the conversation: comment below, share on Facebook, and find us on Twitter using the hashtag #DMTalk.