NASA Offers $2.5M Prize for Mars Habitat Competition

NASA

NASA announced a $2.5 million competition for the design and build of a 3D habitat for deep space. These would also be used for future colonies on Mars. Since the availability of 3D printing, using technology for resources that would be available on site, for building material has become a debate of international space agencies, such as, NASA.

Shelter is a basic and critical need. However, packing building materials and construction materials for habitat building on Mars, or anywhere in deep space, would use a lot of cargo space, that would be best used for other necessities. The cost of transporting a pound of material in Earth’s orbit is $10,000. This will create a problem in taking habitat-building materials into deep space and to Mars, as an economical endeavor. Engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs are asking how to be able use less cargo space for the materials. This is creating a big push for asteroid mining. Asteroid mining would lend an ample supply of metals, as well as, water.

The competition, part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program has two parts. The first part is solely based on architecture. The winner of phase one, will receive a $50,000 prize. The second part of the competition is to determine how to use material already available on Mars, in space and recyclables to manufacture building components and habitats on Mars. The prize for this part is $1.1 million.

Building a 3D printer that will reliable in the environment on Mars is another challenge that must be met. The future of 3D printing can be inspirational. The technology of 3D printing will be essential in deep space exploration, according to the Centennial Challenges program manager, Sam Ortega, who continued on to say, the challenge will raise the bar from our current capabilities. Ortega and NASA are looking forward to what the creator of the habitat community will try to do with that.

The competition is a collaboration with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, or America Makes. The competition is now open for registration.

If colonists are sent to Mars, habitats are going to be a necessity, but they will have to be built very differently from any other shelter that has been built before. NASA wants to encourage creative thinking so NASA has teamed up with America Makes to offer this Mars habitat competition with a total prize of $2.5 million.

NASA has put together a list of things that the Mars 2020 rover will be taking to Mars. Of the items that will be going to Mars via the rover will be, MOXIE. The Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE), sucks in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the pushes out pure oxygen to use in rocket fuel and eventually to be able to breathe.

The MOXIE is one of seven items that will travel on the Mars 2020 rover, a $130 million value. The lead scientist for the Mars Exploration project, Michael Meyer talks about the possibilities of this device. It will be useful for producing rocket fuel and when humans are exploring Mars, it will be needed for oxygen use.

When NASA lands the rover on Mars in 2020, it will primarily be a test device to explore the atmosphere, environmental conditions that affect the production of oxygen, and gravity on Mars. The primary focus has been getting water to drink and oxygen to breathe. Learning how to control these two vital necessities will save money and energy, if engineers are also able to manufacture infrastructure with materials found on Mars, as well as, in deep space.

This is why NASA and America Makes has put the competition into place. The $50,000 prize is for architectural designs and $1.1 million for 3D printing to build the shelters from materials that can be found on Mars and in asteroids, as well as, recyclable material. The competition is already open for registration.

By Jeanette Smith

Sources:
International Business Times: NASA Offer $2.5M Prize for Designing and Building a 3D Printed Habitat
NASA 3D Printed Habitat Challenge
Gizmodo: NASA Will Make Oxygen From CO2 on the Surface of Mars
Gizmodo 2: NASA Wants Your Help Figuring Out How to Build Space Habitats
Photo courtesy of NASA/Bill Ingalls’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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