NASA unveiled the three finalists in its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, the plan to build up a 3D printed home for astronauts on Mars, on the moon, or even more in the universe. The multi-million dollar contest forces teams to design complex structures that can be built on distant planets, giving the spacecraft a more permanent place to live than the landing gear and similar devices.
The first phase was completed in 2015, with the relatively simple task of providing architectural representations of the building proposed by each team. The second phase lasted the next two years, with postgraduate teams being pushed to explore the materials and the structural components that would be used for construction, to make these habitats viable.
We are now at the end of the third stage. This ends in May this year, challenging the three remaining teams to print the subscale of their habitat. NASA demands that everything is built independently.
The three teams share a prize of $100,000 to reach this stage of the competition. First, SEARCH +/Apis Color, a New York team. The twisted structure that looks like a minaret or, if you feel less charitable, a Harman-Kardon Evoke Cortana speaker and is designed to be constantly amplified in a spiral. Perforations on the sides and roof allow light to enter the structure.
Then there’s the Zopherus team from Arkansas. It reached second place and just over $33,000 with its 3D printed design. The group is considering a traveling printer that would move to a suitable building site, build a structure, and then move to a different location to continue producing a neighborhood. Finally, there is a Connecticut-based Mars Incubator team. The design comprises many hexagons and pentagons, which can be combined to form spheres of different sizes.