NASA 3D Printed Mars Habitat Design winners

NASA announced winners of the 3D printed Mars habitat design challenge.

They had both exterior and interior designs.

Team Zopherus from Rogers, Arkansas, was the first-place winner of Phase 3: Level 1 of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The team’s design includes using a moving printer that deploys rovers to retrieve local materials.

They had three dome-shaped structures. It includes a hydroponic garden and a large, spiderlike robot that would function as both a lander and a 3D printer.

Other Winners

AI. SpaceFactory of New York City took second place with its “Marsha” habitat. It features flexible, hive-like structures designed to expand and contract to withstand temperature and atmospheric fluctuations on Mars.

The Kahn-Yates team of Mississippi was third with a hat-shaped habitat dotted with a lot of windows.

Fourth place had the following design.

15 thoughts on “NASA 3D Printed Mars Habitat Design winners”

  1. Wish you could edit comments…

    I do engineering work, design of deep draw stamping tools, but I basically never have to document any of my calculations in writing, and I guess it shows.

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  2. I work for the American branch of a German company, I see that (reverse from American) notation all the time. Yes, that was a typo.

    Bottom line, the winner of the competition didn’t do even the most basic engineering analysis, and produced an utterly impractical design. But, of course, it was a public relations effort, they weren’t actually looking for practical designs that might end up being implemented.

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  3. I think only the french and maybe a handful of other countries use a comma for decimal and dots for thousand separators. Dot for decimal and comma (or space) for thousands is fine by me. The thousand separators can even be omitted for smallish numbers. I’m more concerned with the units than the formatting.

    If I were to nitpick, SI kilo prefix is lowercase k; uppercase K is kelvin; SI pascal symbol is Pa not PA; and density is in kg/m^3, not kg/m^2. I assume that last one was just a typo. But again, I’m more concerned with the units. If you write KPA and I can understand from the context that you meant kPa, that’s fine.

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  4. Personally, I prefer the concept I came up with, and Goatguy dubbed the “dirtbag”: You lay a flexible envelope with internal stays on the ground, (Maybe in a depression you’ve dug.) stack velcro covered sandbags on top of it of sufficient weight to compensate for almost all of the planned internal pressure, and then inflate it. It really is the cheapest way of getting a large amount of protected volume on Mars, since most of the structural strength comes from the weight of the dirt. And the sand bags could be manufactured on Mars, HDPE could be manufactured on site from CO2 and H2O, and becomes quite strong if you stretch the filaments to orient the molecules.

    Velcro covered sandbags because you really don’t want the counter-weight shifting about. Internal stays taking up at least some of the load because otherwise it’s mechanically unstable once the bag is more than 2-3 times it’s height in diameter. Blocks for the vaulted dome structure would be dirt, baked dry, graded for a high packing fraction, and bound together with HDPE.

    For the entrance you use the vaulted dome approach, transitioning to the pressure vessel design at the surface.

    For larger spaces I have some elaborations, involving running heat pipes up through the counter-weight, (Because living space is useless if you can’t get heat out of it, and 6 meters of dry dirt is some serious insulation!) and purple LED plant lighting. But on a smaller scale you might not need the heat pipes, I haven’t run any calculations on that. Maybe just run them up through the access tunnel.

    A practical living space on Mars isn’t going to look very interesting from the outside, just an igloo with an airlock, surrounded by a field of nuclear generators or maybe rectennas, and the heat rejecting end of some heat pipes. (Maybe bury those under enough dirt to prevent wind errosion.)

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  5. Sure. 34 KPA, 34 000 Newtons per square meter. . Assume a density of 1,5 g/cc, or 1 500 Kg/m2.

    Surface gravity of about 3,7 m/s2.

    Thickness=34 000/(3,7×1 500)=6,12 meters of dirt, give or take depending on actual density.

    Ok, that was too much trouble, I’m going back to using American convention, where decimal points are periods, and you use commas to separate groups of three digits. 😉

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  6. “unless you’re going to build vaulted domes and then bury them under enough dirt to compensate for the internal pressure. Which is a LOT of dirt, they’d have to be buried very deep indeed.”

    Which is exactly what you should do. Digging is easy, the dome holds in air and the dirt on top of the dome blocks radiation. Getting dirt on top of the dome is also easy- it is easy to build a long conveyor belt in 1/3rd of a g. None of these designs take radiation exposure seriously.

    Sunlight on Mars is nice but badly overrated. It is diffuse and dust is a real problem. All these nice windows will be covered with dust in a month and will be obscured. All that airtight 3D printed mass wasted. All that time printing things wasted. An actual Mars habitat looks more like a bomb shelter. You shouldn’t grow food in sunlight on Mars, grow it hydroponically with LEDs.

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  7. The basic problem here is that the inside of the habitat has to be pressurized, presumably to at least 5 psi, preferably higher. This dictates the use of pressure vessel shapes, (Cylinders with spherical end caps.) and materials with good tensile strength in at least two directions, unless you’re going to build vaulted domes and then bury them under enough dirt to compensate for the internal pressure.

    Which is a LOT of dirt, they’d have to be buried very deep indeed.

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  8. None of these look particularly practical. Did they actually run structural calculations taking into account internal air pressure? It doesn’t look like it to me.

    A flat base on a pressurized habitat. What’s keeping it flat?

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  9. I would assume the best size and structural dimensions for these habitats would be the strength of the construction material. It won’t really be known until it’s been produced on site for a while. Presumably it will get stronger as the process is improved. It would be funny if the most practical technique was “compacted Mars”(earth). If you could find some regolith with the right amount of ice in it, heat it, and beat it, you have a building material. It could serve as the roof too, since there’s no rain.

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