Unless you were hiding under a moon rock, it would have been hard to miss NASA’s recent announcement about evidence of flowing water being found on Mars. It should therefore come as no surprise that NASA has selected a water-based winner for their 3D Printed Habitat Challenge for Mars.
The competition, which was sponsored by NASA and America Makes, asked teams to design a 3D-printed habitat for four crew members utilising only material native to the ‘Red Planet’.
The winning design, Mars Ice House was created by SEArch (Space Exploration Architecture) and Clouds AO (Clouds Architecture Office), a New York-based architecture and space research collective.
As one of the few submitted designs not buried beneath the Martian soil, the Mars Ice House stood out from the competition – literally. The design team explored building above ground using ice mined from the vast deposits of water that appear to be trapped within the polar ice caps of Mars.
Formed as a double-layered pod, the structure’s ice shell can potentially filter out harmful radiation and provide protection from the hostile Martian climate; which can range in temperature from 20 degrees to minus 150 degrees celsius.
The light-infused internal spaces of the Mars Ice House also provide an environment conducive to the well-being of its inhabitants.
Of the original 162 entrants, the Mars Ice House made it into the final 30 by beating off competition from the likes of the European Space Agency and internationally-renowned architects Foster + Partners.
Throughout the challenge, the design team experimented with ice prototyping which has redefined traditional 3D-printing methods.
Essentially, the process involves turning the substructure ice into water vapour, which as liquid water can then be ‘printed’ in a sub-zero environment to create solid ice forms.
Exploring 3D-printed habitats is a natural progression for NASA. The International Space Station already has a Made in Space zero-gravity 3D-printer on board for printing tools and component parts on demand. An orbiting 3D-printing factory is also in development.
For the first time, astronauts can now manufacture what they need, when they need it in space.
Jason Dunn, Made in Space co-founder
All this fascinating research and development work will pave the way for future long-term space expeditions.
- We highly recommend a visit the Mars Ice House website to learn more about the design, research and science behind this fascinating project.
- Explore the America Makes/NASA 3D printed habitat challenge >
- Visit the Clouds Architecture website >
- Visit the SEarch website >
Photo credits: CloudsAO/SEArch
Mars Ice House features in the Rhine Capital Partners MARKER® Monthly Update for October.
- On 29th October 2015