3D Printing

3D-printed ice shelter wins NASA's Mars habitat design competition

3D-printed ice shelter wins NA...
Ice House is based on NASA's "follow the water" approach to exploration
Ice House is based on NASA's "follow the water" approach to exploration
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Ice House is based on NASA's "follow the water" approach to exploration
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Ice House is based on NASA's "follow the water" approach to exploration
Ice House was designed by Team Space Exploration Architecture, and Clouds Architecture Office
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Ice House was designed by Team Space Exploration Architecture, and Clouds Architecture Office
A cross section view of the Ice House shows a person in the interstitial section
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A cross section view of the Ice House shows a person in the interstitial section
Where the ice shell thins, large ETFE inflatable windows filled with radiation shielding gas further expand the perceived volume and frame views into the landscape
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Where the ice shell thins, large ETFE inflatable windows filled with radiation shielding gas further expand the perceived volume and frame views into the landscape
Thermally separated from the habitat interior, the occupiable interstitial section of the Ice House provides a unique protected neutral zone that is not entirely interior or exterior
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Thermally separated from the habitat interior, the occupiable interstitial section of the Ice House provides a unique protected neutral zone that is not entirely interior or exterior
The Ice House makes use of a projected mars descent vehicle, a deployable membrane, and semi-autonomous robotic printers to both gather and deposit subsurface water ice
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The Ice House makes use of a projected mars descent vehicle, a deployable membrane, and semi-autonomous robotic printers to both gather and deposit subsurface water ice
For Team Gamma, the initial excavation of a 1.5-m (4.9-ft) deep crater would be carried out by large "diggers"
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For Team Gamma, the initial excavation of a 1.5-m (4.9-ft) deep crater would be carried out by large "diggers"
Team Gamma proposes using inflatable modules that form the core of the settlement would be placed into the crater
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Team Gamma proposes using inflatable modules that form the core of the settlement would be placed into the crater
The Team Gamma dwelling would have a variety of overlapping private and communal spaces
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The Team Gamma dwelling would have a variety of overlapping private and communal spaces
Team Gamma would use "transporter" robots to cover its inflatable modules in regolith, which would then be fused by "melter" robots to create a protective skin
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Team Gamma would use "transporter" robots to cover its inflatable modules in regolith, which would then be fused by "melter" robots to create a protective skin
Team Gamma's 3D-printed Mars shelter would cover an area of 93 sq m (1,001 sq ft)
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Team Gamma's 3D-printed Mars shelter would cover an area of 93 sq m (1,001 sq ft)
Up to four astronauts could be housed in Team Gamma's shelter
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Up to four astronauts could be housed in Team Gamma's shelter
Team LavaHive proposes using construction rovers with inflatable attachment sections as the basis for the shelter, which once inflated, would be covered in "lava-casted" regolith to create a protective layer
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Team LavaHive proposes using construction rovers with inflatable attachment sections as the basis for the shelter, which once inflated, would be covered in "lava-casted" regolith to create a protective layer

NASA has announced the winners of its 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition. The contest sought architectural concepts for how 3D printing might be used to create shelters on the Red Planet. The overall winner, Ice House, would be built using the planet's predicted abundant water supply.

More than 165 submissions to the competition, which was launched in May, were received by NASA. The 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge, of which the design competition is part, is ultimately aimed at contributing towards the development of new technologies for additive manufacturing using "local indigenous materials" in space and on Earth.

"The creativity and depth of the designs we’ve seen have impressed us," says NASA's Centennial Challenges Program Manager Monsi Roman. "These teams were not only imaginative and artistic with their entries, but they also really took into account the life-dependent functionality our future space explorers will need in an off-Earth habitat."

Ice House was designed by Team Space Exploration Architecture, and Clouds Architecture Office. It is based on NASA's "follow the water" approach to exploration. As water is a means of sustaining life and ice a potential building material, the team opted to locate at Alba Mons in Mars' northern hemisphere, where it is believed sub-surface water ice is plentiful.

A cross section view of the Ice House shows a person in the interstitial section
A cross section view of the Ice House shows a person in the interstitial section

The proposal uses a lander as the basis of the shelter, containing both private and communal interior spaces. Once in situ, it would deploy an inflatable ETFE membrane to create an interstitial environment between the outside of the capsule and the Mars atmosphere. Rovers would then extract water from the ice below the surface at Alba Mons and apply it to form a protective skin on the inside of the inflatable environment.

Not only does the layer of ice provide protection from radiation in the outside atmosphere, it is also translucent and allows light into the habitat. By conditioning the environment within the inflatable section, it is proposed that the ice be kept frozen indefinitely and vegetation could be grown, which would help to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.

The second place award of $15,000 went to Team Gamma, from architecture firm Foster + Partners. Its concept proposes using semi-autonomous robots to build a shelter using regolith (the loose soil and rocks found on the surface of Mars).

Team LavaHive proposes using construction rovers with inflatable attachment sections as the basis for the shelter, which once inflated, would be covered in "lava-casted" regolith to create a protective layer
Team LavaHive proposes using construction rovers with inflatable attachment sections as the basis for the shelter, which once inflated, would be covered in "lava-casted" regolith to create a protective layer

Finally, third place honors went to Team LavaHive. It proposes using construction rovers with inflatable attachment sections as the basis for the shelter. Once inflated, the sections would be covered in "lava-casted" regolith to create a protective layer. This approach would be used to create a number of adjacent shelters with adjoining corridors.

Teams were judged on many factors, including architectural concept, design approach, habitability, innovation, functionality, Mars site selection and 3D print constructability. The highest ranked 30 submissions, including the three winners, were displayed at the New York Maker Faire on Sunday, Sep. 27.

Source: NASA

6 comments
RelayerM31
Living on Mars would suck to the maximum level of suckedness; all the charm of Antarctica but none of the air, water, or available food supplies.
Nik
"It is believed sub-surface water ice is plentiful." It was once believed that the earth was flat. I wouldn't trust my life to a belief, only when the habitats are built and fully functional will I believe it, should I live that long.
Bob Vious
Well said Nik. They'd do well to practice in some desolate area of Antarctica before they head there. I see no reason to go there until we get the travel time way down. Hopefully ion drives will improve significantly soon.
yawood
Where is the 3D printing aspects of these designs? I thought that was the basis of the competition.
JulieMarieBrown
I'm not really getting a complete picture of how this thing is supposed to actually look or sensibly work. It looks like you need to go thru that ice holding area to get in and out of the thing. Also... wouldn't the heated interior and the icecold walls be in constant conflict? Seems like another unrealistic, power consumption nightmare, designed to hold the Mars program back more. Like Vasimr. Bob. They did. It was a success. Also, 6 months is the correct flight time. The faster you make the journey, the more exponentially difficult it will become to retro when you get to where you're going and brake into orbit. Otherwise you'll fly right past it. Also you'd lose any chance of a free return trajectory because the earth wouldn't be there when you looped back. You may also be concerned about the long term effects of zero-g, which most people seem to not be aware is not a requirement for space travel. Atificial gravity can be easily simulated by firing rcs on a burnt booster stage secured to a tether. Google it. Simulated gravity with centrifical force. It's really really basic stuff. The fact of the matter is NASA is too busy romancing their constituents to want to do anything mission driven. It will be up to independent companies like Spacex, which have revolutionize rocket design and reduced costs by many factors. We don't really have to care as much what NASA or the government does with the space program anymore.
JulieMarieBrown
Mars has been thoroughly proven to have water. Everybody can stop saying "there's thought to be" :-) It was THOUGHT to be 40 years ago. It was observed running down hillsides in orbital pictures a decade or two ago, and has finally met the requisite number of redundancies to satisfy NASA into confirming it.