Next Stop, Mars

John Hill
8. May 2019
An interior view of the winning Mars habitat (MARSHA), with light coming in through one of three robotically-placed windows. (Photo: Courtesy of AI. SpaceFactory)

During the first week of May, two teams spent 30 hours robotically 3D printing their designs in the final stage of the NASA 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. After building and testing, New York's AI. SpaceFactory nabbed the $500,000 first-place prize.

3D-printing MARSHA (Photo: Courtesy of AI. SpaceFactory)

The last stage of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, which took place May 1-4 at Caterpillar's Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois, came a few weeks after we reported on the previous stage of NASA's four-year, $3.15 million challenge. The challenge consisted of three phases, each with multiple levels, culminating in the Phase 3, Level 5 competition in Edwards. Phase 3, Level 4 winner SEArch+/Apis Cor did not participate, so the last stage of the challenge pitted AI. SpaceFactory against the team from Pennsylvania State University.

The 1/3-scale, 3D-printed MARSHA by New York's AI. SpaceFactory. (Photo: Courtesy of AI. SpaceFactory)

AI. SpaceFactory printed a 15-foot-tall version of their MARSHA (Mars habitat) prototype. According to a statement from AI. SpaceFactory, they "were lauded for the automation of our print – completed with nearly no human assistance in 30 hours – as well as our innovative biopolymer basalt composite, a biodegradable and recyclable material derived from natural materials found on Mars. After withstanding NASA’s pressure, smoke, and impact testing, this material was found to be stronger and more durable than its concrete competitors."

MARSHA passing the Crush Test. (Photo: Courtesy of AI. SpaceFactory)

Although the challenge was focused on other planets, AI. SpaceFactory is planning on reusing the materials from last week to 3D-print TERA, "the first Mars experience on Earth."

The winning team (Photo: Courtesy of AI. SpaceFactory)

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