NASA has big plans to put humans on Mars. Once they get there, they’ll need a place to live. That’s the focus of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, and the agency recently awarded $100,000 to two teams that have completed the first printing segment of the challenge.
Foster + Partners | Branch Technology of Chattanooga, TN, (which was awarded $85,930) and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks (which was warded $14,070) were the two top scorers of the seven teams in the Phase 2: Level 1 Compression Test Competition.
The goal of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge is to develop technologies that could be used to create habitats out of local materials and recyclable materials.
These systems could be used to create affordable housing on Earth, or to build shelter for human explorers on distant planets like Mars. The program is a partnership between NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University in Peoria, IL.
“Seeing tangible, 3D-printed objects for this phase makes the goals of this challenge more conceivable than ever,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of Centennial Challenges. “This is the first step toward building an entire habitat structure, and the potential to use this technology to aid human exploration to new worlds is thrilling.”
Phase 2 includes three sub-competitions. The compression test required teams to develop printable materials to create a cone and a cylinder. Points were scored based on lab test results. The teams will next create a beam for testing.
Phase 1 of the challenge focused on design, and was completed in 2015. Phase 2 has a $1.1 million prize purse and focuses on material technologies. Phase 3 has a $1.4 million purse and will involve fabrication technologies.
“Innovation is a key focus of Bradley University, which is one of the many reasons we are so very proud to be a part of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge with NASA,” said Bradley University President Gary Roberts. “The winners of Phase 1 and this first stage of Phase 2 are to be commended for their innovation in creating a solution that will fit not only in our world but beyond. I look forward to the next phase and seeing teams work to advance critical systems needed for human space exploration like never before.”