Think you can design 3D-printed deep space buildings that will sustain human life? Think your design can win out over zillions of entries? You've got until July 15 next month to submit your registration package to 3D printing (3DP) public/private institute America Makes for its NASA-sponsored 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.
"From Waste to Space" is the $2.25 million competition to design and build 3D-printed habitats for deep space exploration, including NASA's planned manned journey to Mars. Part of NASA's Centennial Challenges program, the contest aims at advancing the additive manufacturing (AM) construction technology needed to create safe, sustainable housing solutions for space, as well as for use on Earth.
NASA has funded research headed by University of Southern California professor Behrokh Khoshnevis to explore how structures on the moon and on Mars can be made using additive manufacturing via Khoshnevis' Contour Crafting robot. The technology can create structures such as roads, landing pads, and buildings on location from local materials like lunar or Martian soil. In 2014, the Contour Crafting technology won the grand prize among more than 1,000 entries in the 2014 NASA Tech Briefs "Create the Future" design contest.
(Source: University of Southern California/Contour Crafting)
The idea is to send robotic AM construction machines to Mars and beyond that use local materials, such as dust and rock, or a combination of local materials and recyclable materials, to build habitable shelters for astronauts. Why? Because every pound of payload launched into space costs $10,000 just to get into Earth's orbit. That's what it costs to get a liter of bottled water to the International Space Station (ISS), as Made in Space's Jason Dunn pointed out in is RAPID 2015 keynote. NASA has worked with Dunn's company to produce a 3D printer for use on the ISS, and eventually elsewhere in space, to make tools and small items. The same techniques developed in the new habitat design contest may eventually be used here on Earth, too, for constructing affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to traditional building materials.
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