America Makes and NASA have announced a $2.25 million dollar competition to build and design an entirely 3D printed habitat for deep space exploration. NASA is no doubt thinking about its upcoming plan to journey to Mars, and looking for creative solutions for building a habitat there. Back in April, Tethers Unlimited was awarded a contract by NASA to develop a recycling system for the ISS. The system would convert plastic waste to 3D filament, just another step towards a self-sustaining 3D printed habitat.
This challenge has multiple phases and is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, designed to advance 3D technology to be able to construct sustainable housing solutions on Earth and in outer space. One of the most basic elements needed to sustain human life on another planet is shelter, but, unfortunately, ready-made modular homes are not easy to cram into the valuable cargo room of a spacecraft. NASA is moving in the direction of additive manufacturing because there is a lot of potential there for use in space. If astronauts were able to build a habitat using recycled waste material from their spacecraft and indigenous materials, there would be a real chance at sustainable life beyond earth’s orbit.
Sam Ortega, Centennial Challenges program manager says that “the future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration. This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it.”
The first phase of the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge will be primarily a design competition. It was announced on May 16th at the Maker Faire in San Mateo, California and will run through September 27th. Participating designers will utilize the unique capabilities of 3D printing to design innovative architectural structures. The joint committee will accept the top 30 entries and will award a $50,000 prize to the winner at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.
The next phase of the competition is in divided into two parts. The focus for the first part is on creating innovative new materials out of indigenous materials or a combination of recyclables and indigenous materials. The second part challenges makers to fabricate full-scale habitats using unique indigenous/recyclable materials. This second phase of the competition opens up on September 26th and both the material and the material design arms of the competition offer $1.1 million dollar to the winning projects.
If eternal glory is a bigger motivator for you than money, you will be happy to know that the winning products and concepts will help NASA forge a path towards future space habitation as well as aiding in the ongoing exploration of 3D printing sustainable housing here on earth.
Ralph Resnick, founding director of America Makes said, “America Makes is honored to be a partner in this potentially revolutionary competition. We believe that 3D printing/Additive Manufacturing has the power to fundamentally change the way people approach design and construction for habitats, both on earth and off, and we are excitedly awaiting submissions from all types of competitors.”