In Phase Three of the ongoing 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, NASA and partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois recently awarded a total of $700,000 to two winning teams. The $500,000 grand prize went to New York-based AI SpaceFactory, a multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency, for their proposal “MARSHA”. The second prize went to Pennsylvania State University of University Park, who received $200,000.
Starting in 2015, the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge tasks teams to demonstrate different additive manufacturing technologies needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond, from designing to software modeling to physical construction. Since then, more than 60 teams have competed and NASA has awarded over $2 million in prize money. The habitat 3D-print is the final level of the multi-year Challenge.
The two finalist teams faced off from May 1-4 at Caterpillar's Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois, where they created subscale shelters made from recyclables and materials that could be found on the Moon and Mars, and other deep-space destinations. Structures had to be a one-third scale version of their architectural designs, and had to employ robotic construction techniques with minimal human intervention.
Scroll down for a glimpse of AI SpaceFactory's winning proposal.
Made from an innovative biopolymer basalt composite that outperformed its concrete competitors, the 15-foot MARSHA prototype was printed with almost no human assistance in 30 hours during the Challenge. The prototype also included three robotically-placed windows.
The structure's mixed basalt fiber was extracted from Martian rock and renewable bioplastic made from plants. “It’s light, and it’s strong, like an airplane. That’s going to be very important for these types of habitats,” said Lex Akers, Dean of the Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology at Bradley University, in a statement.
After two years of developing the construction technologies for the challenge, AI SpaceFactory plans to recycle the materials from MARSHA to 3D-print TERA, described by the team as the first-ever, space-tech, eco-habitat on Earth. Made from recycled, biodegradable materials, TERA can be composted back into the soil at the end of its lifecycle. AI SpaceFactory will soon be launching an Indiegogo campaign for TERA, which is expected to be available as early as this September.
You can check out NASA's photos from the competition event here.
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