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article imageNASA announces three winners of 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge

By Karen Graham     Apr 8, 2019 in Technology
Teams competing in NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge completed the latest level of the competition – complete virtual construction – and the top three were awarded a share of the $100,000 prize purse.
NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge began in 2015 and is a competition to create sustainable shelters suitable for the Moon, Mars or beyond using resources available on-site in these locations.
The competition was divided into three phases, each phase having multiple levels of difficulty.
Phase 1, (completed) the Design Competition, required teams to submit architectural renderings and was completed in 2015. ($50,000 prize purse)
Phase 2, (completed) the Structural Member Competition, focused on material technologies, requiring teams to create structural components. It was completed in 2017. ($1.1 million prize purse)
Phase 3 (current), the On-Site Habitat Competition, comprises five levels that test teams’ ability to advance technology to autonomously construct a habitat and will culminate in a head-to-head habitat print in April 2019. ($2 million prize purse
The three winners were chosen from a participating group of 11 teams tasked with making a full-scale habitat using modeling software, building on an earlier stage of the competition that required partial virtual modeling.
The teams were graded on their layout, programming, use of interior space, and their habitat's ability to be scaled to full size for construction, according to a NASA statement announcing the winners.
The aesthetic representation and realism of each entry were also considered in this phase of the competition. The three winners shared the $100,000 prize equally. They were First-place finalist SEArch+/Apis Cor from New York City: Second place winner, Team Zopherus from Rogers, Arkansas, and Third place winner, Mars Incubator from New Haven, Connecticut.
Here's what the three award recipients submitted (plus videos about each):
SEArch+/Apis Cor – New York City – Awarded $33,954.11: The New York team opted for tall buildings, using the upper part of a Hercules Single-Stage Reusable Vehicle for a habitat. The sloping structures would be further constructed by rovers using the regolith found on Mars to help shield against radiation. According to NASA, the first place team focused on a design to “provide radiation shielding and physical protection”, according to the UK's Independent.
The habitat would include three zones that can be sealed off independently from each other in case of an emergency. Inside the habitat are two laboratories, four bedrooms, a greenhouse, a relaxation area, and areas to support rovers and spacewalks, among other things, according to NBC News.
Team Zopherus – Rogers, Arkansas – Awarded $33,422.01: The team’s design would be constructed by an autonomous roving printer that prints a structure and then moves on to the next site. Also focusing on radiation protection, using small huts with domed tops. The regolith is sandwiched between an inner layer of insulating plastic and a crosshatched outer layer to reinforce the concrete and deflect radiation.
The Zopherus habitat also includes a communal unit with a suit airlock, hydroponic gardens, four bedrooms for the crew, a laboratory module, and rover hatches, and it can be expanded as needed to meet the demands of research and crew.
Mars Incubator – New Haven, Connecticut – Awarded $32,623.88: Think of a large soccer ball and you have a general description of the Mars Incubator structure. The main, larger structure and the three smaller soccer ball habitats will be held up on legs made of basalt, a volcanic rock found in Mars’s crust.
Each module is connected to the whole habitat using adjustable bridges. The modular panels that form the soccer balls are made of regolith and plastic reinforced with basalt fibers. The habitat includes space for rovers and suits storage, as well as a multi-purpose module, a bio-generation module for plant growth, and a primary module that includes lab space, a food preparation area, and crew accommodations.
Which habitat would you choose and why?
The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge will culminate with a head-to-head subscale structure print May 1-4, 2019, and the awarding of an $800,000 prize purse. Media and the public will be invited to attend the event in Peoria, Illinois.
More about NASA, 3Dprinted Mars habitats, Three winners, autonomous construction, 3D printing
 
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