In the just-released blockbuster movie “The Martian”, Matt Damon’s character is left stranded on Mars, and struggling to remain alive. So he would have been happy to hear about a recent design competition that saw teams around the world submit designs for astronaut housing in space.
Israeli design team Tridom won honorable mention in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge for their ‘Bubble Base’ model (pictured below).
The challenge, hosted by NASA and America Makes, America’s 3D Printing Institute, called for 3D printed housing designs that could be made suitable for deep space exploration, including life on Mars.
One of 162 contestants and 30 finalists, Tridom, a Tel Aviv-based construction robot company, competed against leading international architectural and engineering firms, some of which specialize in space engineering.
Tridom team leaders Yaron Schwarcz and Lior Aharoni presented a design of an inflatable structure that could be blown-up with a small amount of liquefied natural gas once on the red planet. Then a swarm of drones would sinter quartz-rich, Martian sand into blocks and fix them to their appointed location within the dome structure.
The winning team, SEArch/Clouds Architecture Office, a New York-based architecture and space research collective, designed a fin-shaped ‘Ice House’ whose multi-layered shell of ice would house a more hospitable environment, rich in water and minerals. Other finalists submitted plans that used prefabricated folding panels, glass shells and underground modules.
Competing teams had to take into consideration environmental concerns, such as exposure to radiation and high temperatures, while also considering how their habitats could be transported to Mars. Designers also had to incorporate traditional architectural necessities such as gardens, communal and private spaces, and of course, a gym. Almost all teams used robots or drones in the assembly process.
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The challenge, which was announced in May of this year, is part of a three-phase competition created by NASA and America Makes to develop 3D printing and additive construction technology for housing solutions on Earth and beyond.
“The future possibilities for 3D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration,” said Sam Ortega, Manager of the Centennial Challenges Program at NASA. “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 award ceremony that was held at Makers Faire in New York on September 27th, marked the closing of the first phase, in which Search/Clouds won $50,000. The next phase asks candidates to use indigenous materials and recyclables, while the final phase calls for the construction of full-scale habitats. Each of the subsequent stages offers up a $1.1 million prize.
The ‘Bubble Base’ design was completed by the Tridom team with the help of Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design architecture graduate Helen Wexler.