NASA Unveils​ Top Designs For 3D-Printed Homes on Mars
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NASA Unveils​ Top Designs For 3D-Printed Homes on Mars

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By Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge asked architects to design homes that can be built on Mars—and they delivered.

When we live on Mars, we'll all reside in bronze-colored, twisted structures with dozens of small holes to let in the Martian light. At least that's the vision of New York–based SEArch+ who, along with 3D printing company Apis Cor, just won first place in phase three of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.

The unique shape of SEArch+'s winning habitat is designed to continuously reinforce the structure. 

The unique shape of SEArch+'s winning habitat is designed to continuously reinforce the structure. 

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Inaugurated in 2015, the $3.15 million competition challenges architects to build 3D-printed habitats for deep space exploration. The ultimate aim is to advance construction technology needed to create homes on the red planet, and to help develop sustainable housing solutions right here on Earth.

The On-Site Habitat Competition is the third phase, consisting of five levels. The first two phases were Design (completed in 2015) and Structural Member(completed in 2017), which focused on material technologies. Phase three culminates with scale models of the buildings being printed in a head-to-head competition that will take place next month in Peoria, Illinois. The winning team takes home $800,000.

Mars Incubator's third-place-winning model would fit right in on the set of Matt Damon's The Martian—and it even features a greenhouse.

Mars Incubator's third-place-winning model would fit right in on the set of Matt Damon's The Martian—and it even features a greenhouse.

11 teams entered the competition, which tasked entrants with manufacturing a habitat using indigenous materials and/or recyclable materials that could house a crew of four for a year. The three winners, who split a prize of $100,000, were SEArch+/Apis Cor, Zopherus, and Mars Incubator. Judges graded entries based on functionality, layout, efficiency, 3D printing constructability, the robustness of the design, and aesthetics.

Zopherus won second place with a design that can be constructed by an autonomous roving printer. The device would print a structure and then move on to the next site and build another. 

Zopherus won second place with a design that can be constructed by an autonomous roving printer. The device would print a structure and then move on to the next site and build another. 

Whether or not these designs will ever sit on Mars, the moon, or beyond, NASA hopes that pushing designers, architects, and inventors in this way will spur the development of new technologies to further sustainability on whichever celestial body we live on.

Related Reading: 12 Futuristic Homes That Look Like They Belong in Outer Space, How ICON Is Building the $4,000 3D-Printed Homes of the Future