NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge focuses on developing a habitat concept for Mars explorers. 3D printed technologies and indigenous materials are an indispensable condition for teams to present a project.
Lunar and Martian soils are mostly composed of regolith, crushed rock material originating through rock-weathering or debris of small space objects. In addition, there are extensive basalt deposits on these planets.
Considering that it would be extremely hard for extraterrestrial space missions to transport building materials, using materials abundant on the camp site was laid down as a condition.
And, naturally, almost all the competitors in some kind applied regolith and basalt which are applicable for strong constructions in the challenging extraterrestrial environment.
And these buildings are supposed to be constructed with minimal manpower and machinery, which should also be delivered from the Earth.
Moreover, walls and a shape of the extraterrestrial base must provide reliable protection against dust drift, temperature extremes, outside pressure and radiation impact.
Currently, the third phase is underway, during which a panel of experts are going to pick up the best team projects that coped with the task and successfully created digital models representing the physical and functional characteristics of the Mars habitat. The expert panel includes a group of subject-matter specialists from NASA, research and industrial communities.
The leading teams that applied basalt fiber in their concepts are as follows:
- Mars Incubator
- AI. SpaceFactory
- SEARCH+/Apis Cor
Mars Incubator has developed a habitat in the form of capsular for a crew settlement. Panels for the capsular walls are made out of Martian regolith and plastics reinforced with basalt fiber. External pods are 3D printed using basalt fiber.
Marsha’s AI. SpaceFactory presented a concept of autonomous vertical egg-shapes structure with a double shell to protect against the aggressive effects. This habitat is constructed from an innovative composite material based on polylactic acid (PLA) reinforced with basalt fiber.
SEARCH + / Apis Cor presented the Mars X House project optimized to withstand the pressure on Mars and looking like flirty cylinders with a waist and ribbons. In fact, everything is well elaborated: inner walls made from easily-recycled HDPE plastics, and the outer walls are made from basalt fiber reinforced concrete, the spiral protrusions are reliable support and strength for the walls.
Let’s wait whether one of these teams become the winner in NASA competition. And we will write about it!