NASA Mars habitat concept

NASA’s Mars habitat contest looks like the coolest sci-fi movie set ever

Contributed by
Aug 13, 2018

You haven’t seen these Mars habitat concepts in your most fantastical dreams. NASA recently announced the top five teams from Phase 3: Level 1 of its 3D-Printed Habitat Centennial Challenge, for which it partnered with Bradley University. Creators were tasked with dreaming up virtual habitats, all of which could be 3D-printed with Martian (or lunar, considering the push to take off for the moon) materials and would accommodate four astronauts living and working on the Red Planet for a year.

Whether that means an Earth year or a Mars year, nobody knows.

What the winning teams envisioned in digital 3D could have come straight out of Star Wars or any science fiction saga where "home" is unlike anything recognizable on Earth. Besides being futuristic works of art, any of these potential habitats could keep astronauts alive on the atmosphere-less, radiation-bombed Red Planet. You also have to consider that just building them will be a massive undertaking, considering limits on transportation and the drastic atmospheric and landscape differences. No wonder the teams got to share $100,000.

“They are not just designing structures, they are designing habitats that will allow our space explorers to live and work on other planets,” said NASA’s Centennial Challenges program manager Monsi Roman. “We are excited to see their designs come to life as the competition moves forward.”

NASA MARS habitat concept

Credit: NASA

In fifth place is this dome habitat from Northwestern University that could have come straight out of Tatooine. Dual entrances allow astronauts and rovers to enter and exit, plus an interior that separates wet areas from dry areas to conserve resources. The design allows it to link to other habitats so isolation doesn’t end up being an issue 40 million miles from home.

NASA Mars habitat concept

Credit: NASA

Fourth place went to SEArch+/APis Cor from New York City, whose painfully cool design (inspired by a church in Northern Italy) is as functional as it is breathtaking, with a double outer shell that allows natural light to illuminate the interior while keeping out killer radiation, and “light scoops” that let more sunlight in sans solar energetic particles and cosmic rays.

NASA Mars habitat concept

Credit: NASA

The windows on third-place winner Kahn-Yates’ habitat make it look like the most awesome lamp ever, which it kind of is, because the design allows sunlight through to a garden area meant for growing food with artificial Earthlike conditions. The autonomous module prints and constructs itself with Martian concrete and other materials after landing.

NASA Mars habitat concept

Credit: NASA

A.I. SpaceFactory’s Marsha space hives, which took second place, are supposed to be flexible mass-optimized structures that maximize usable space and morph depending on the weather forecast. They expand and contract depending on Martian temperature tantrums. It also lets in diffuse sunlight and has its own built-in heating and A.C. and even a hydroponic garden.

NASA Mars habitat concept

Credit: NASA

The first-place habitat is the brainchild of Team Zopherus, who imagined a giant spider of a robot that autonomously functions as both a lander and a 3D printer. After touching down, it crawls to an optimal area to construct a trio of radiation-proof domes from Martian materials. These habitats will be able to interlock into what could end up being the type of Martian colony that only exists in movies — for now.

(via NBC Mach)

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