3D Printing

Crew wanted for NASA's 3D-printed simulated Mars habitat

Crew wanted for NASA's 3D-prin...
Mars Dune Alpha will be 3D-printed using Icon's existing Vulcan model 3D printer
Mars Dune Alpha will be 3D-printed using Icon's existing Vulcan model 3D printer
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A render depicting what a future 3D-printed Mars base could look like
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A render depicting what a future 3D-printed Mars base could look like
Floorplan showing the layout of Mars Dune Alpha, in which four participants will spend a year of their lives
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Floorplan showing the layout of Mars Dune Alpha, in which four participants will spend a year of their lives
Mars Dune Alpha will be located in NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas
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Mars Dune Alpha will be located in NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas
Mars Dune Alpha will be 3D-printed using Icon's existing Vulcan model 3D printer
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Mars Dune Alpha will be 3D-printed using Icon's existing Vulcan model 3D printer
Mars Dune Alpha's 3D printed construction process will consist of a cement-like mixture being extruded out of a nozzle in layers
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Mars Dune Alpha's 3D printed construction process will consist of a cement-like mixture being extruded out of a nozzle in layers
Mars Dune Alpha will measure 1,700 sq ft (157 sq m)
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Mars Dune Alpha will measure 1,700 sq ft (157 sq m)
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A mission to Mars seems more a case of when, not if, but where will astronauts actually live once they arrive on the Red Planet? To try and figure this out, NASA has commissioned high-profile architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) to design a 3D-printed simulated Mars habitat here on Earth, and is accepting applications from would-be participants willing to live in it for a year.

The project is named Mars Dune Alpha and is to be located in NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. It's part of the larger CHAPEA (Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog) project that will consist of three year-long Mars surface mission simulations.

Mars Dune Alpha will measure 1,700 sq ft (157 sq m)
Mars Dune Alpha will measure 1,700 sq ft (157 sq m)

Starting in late-2022, Mars Dune Alpha will host four people and help put them to the test with challenges like limited resources, equipment failure, and communication delays. Simulated spacewalks, scientific research, and the use of robotic controls are also a possibility too. If you're reading this thinking "I could do that," (and are a US citizen or permanent resident), head over to NASA's application form to register interest.

If successful, you'd be living full-time in a shelter measuring just 1,700 sq ft (157 sq m) for 12 months. Its interior will be arranged on one level and it will also be flexible with movable furniture allowing its occupants to adapt it to their needs. It will include four crew quarters, a crop growing area, recreation area, kitchen, bathrooms, work area, a robotic room, and a treatment room.

"Four private crew quarters will be located on one end of the habitat; dedicated workstations, medical stations and food-growing stations are located on the opposite end, with shared living spaces found in between," explains Icon, which is 3D printing the habitat. "Varying ceiling heights vertically segmented by an arching shell structure accentuate the unique experience of each area to avoid spatial monotony and crew member fatigue. A mix of fixed and movable furniture will allow crew members to reorganize the habitat according to their daily needs, as will the customizable lighting, temperature, and sound control – helping regulate the daily routine, circadian rhythm, and overall well being of the crew."

A render depicting what a future 3D-printed Mars base could look like
A render depicting what a future 3D-printed Mars base could look like

Mars Dune Alpha is currently being constructed by Icon using the same Vulcan model 3D printer it used in previous projects, including the first 3D-printed homes to hit the market in the US. This extrudes a proprietary cement-like mixture named Lavacrete out of a robotically controlled nozzle in layers until the basic structure is built up. Human builders will then finish it off.

As well being commissioned to build this simulated Mars base, Icon has received funding from NASA for Project Olympus. In this project the 3D printing firm is working with BIG to imagine a space-based construction system to support future Moon exploration. BIG has also shown a prior interest in Mars-based architecture and plans a similar project in Dubai.

Source: Icon

View gallery - 6 images
7 comments
7 comments
David
Anyone who has been constrained in a limited environment for any length of time - which after lockdown includes most of us - knows the value of windows. They would be meaningless in the 3D-printed simulator in a cavernous hanger, but there could be flat panel displays on a number of walls to give the illusion of being on Mars.
Bob Flint
I agree with David, however once one sees the outside, the yearning to get out, grows evermore tempting. Maybe we should discuss with some psychologists on the effects of solitary confinement over months, & years. Our individual experiences in the current pandemic is just a small taste of the real effects being locked into a small room with a few other people. Many issues such as personal compatibility, basic human needs, and the pure purpose of the sacrifice.
Nobody
I've heard that the Mars Society has been doing such simulations for years. Perhaps someone from the Society would like to comment.
Derek Howe
3D printing is definitely the way to build on Mars or the Moon, even on Earth someday soon.
I wouldn't last in a small room for a long period of time, unlike some others on here, my state had no lockdown, I haven't taken any time off work (other then a week when I got Covid). People don't do well in small confined areas.
ChairmanLMAO
I'll go, but only if I got highspeed internet and I get to grow my own weeds.
Nelson Hyde Chick
What with our numbers due to swell by billions more over the next couple decades we should be settling Mars as we have made Earth almost completely uninhabitable.
Interested
Is this building meant just for a psychological confinement experiment here on Earth, or actually meant to represent a practical Mars structure? The reason I ask is the internal pressure problem. For some reason, people seem to forget that even a 500 hectopascal (half Earth sea-level) atmosphere exerts a pressure of over 5 tonnes per square metre. [No. I'm not kidding.]
In Mars' negligible atmosphere, that's 5 tonnes per square metre of air INSIDE a Mars Hab trying its best to get OUTSIDE the Mars Hab. That's colossal force! Only cylindrical and/or spherical structures have the necessary strength-to-weight ratio. Flat walls simply won't work ... unless they're impractically heavy steel plate maybe 30 cm (1 foot) thick.