- AI SpaceFactory’s “Marsha” Mars home won NASA’s 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge.
- Compared to other designs, Marsha looks downright luxurious. It has multiple floors, spacious living quarters, and plenty of windows to gaze upon the Martian horizon.
- Designers used key materials in the structure that are also found on the Martian surface, such as basalt.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video:
When you think of future Martian habitats, what do they look like? A squat, half buried, windowless dome? A glorified fallout shelter? Or … how about… this? This is Marsha. Designed by AI SpaceFactory. It has windows, multiple floors, private rooms, and even a skylight. But best of all? NASA loves it.
The rocket scientists and engineers at NASA are pros when it comes to landing robots on Mars. And they’re figuring out how to get humans there next. But when it comes to living on Mars? Well, they decided to ask the public for help. In the 2010s, NASA launched its 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge. Over the years, its held multiple stages of the phases of the challenge that started with virtual designs and has since progressed to full-fledged 3-D printed models.
Challengers compete not only for bragging rights but for also … well … money. And in 2019, first prize was half a million dollars. Challengers were judged on multiple criteria including: The material they used, the structure’s durability, and how airtight it was.
After 4 days of building, testing, and judging, NASA announced the winner. So, let’s take a closer look at Marsha. For starters, the construction material is made of a basalt composite, something no other competitors used and the team says, could easily be made on Mars.
That’s because Mars has basalt speckled all across its surface thanks to volcanoes that erupted hundreds of millions to billions of years ago. And once you have a good source of basalt, it’s mixed with some plant-based polymers – which, if you were on Mars, you’d have to grow there first. After that, all you need is a robot to 3-D print the house, other stuff like windows that can’t be printed on site, and time.
This prototype is only a third of the size that the team envisions for Mars. And it, alone, took 30 hours to complete from start to finish. The team had to step in and help the machine a few times. But in the future they plan to make the entire process fully autonomous. Because in the real world, there won’t be many people on Mars to help. So you need a design that can, basically, build itself. Plus the team says this basalt composite is an effective shield against the high-energy radiation at Mars’ surface.
And that’s important. Because a person living on Mars, unprotected, would receive about 5,000 times more radiation in their lifetime than if they had lived on Earth. That’s more than enough to cause cancer. And would almost surely result in premature death from radiation poisoning. Now, some experts argue that any freestanding building on Mars is a bad idea, specifically because of the high radiation problem.
Jeffrey Montes, Extra-planetary Habitats and Systems Lead: “Because of the hostile environment people associate bunkers with good ideas but I think one thing Marsha does, is to ask the question: isn’t psychological health also mission-critical?”
Jeffrey isn’t the only one worried about psychological health. For years, NASA has been testing how humans withstand long periods of isolation. For example, it requires astronauts in space to complete regular psychological tests that monitor their mood. They also conduct experiments on the ground, like the HI-SEAS study, short for Hawaii Space Exploration Analogue and Simulation.Where a small crew lives in Mars-like homes for usually eight months at a time and faces many of the same physical and psychological challenges of living on Mars.
But compared to the HI-SEAS living quarters, Marsha looks … different. For one, it has multiple floors, each with a distinct purpose. The first, contains a wet lab and space for EVA prep. One floor up: the kitchen and dry lab. On the third floor, a hydroponic garden, bathroom, and sleeping quarters. And above that, a gym and recreation center.
Not to mention, there are multiple windows throughout the home.
Jeffrey Montes: “Windows are key relationship with the environment, the landscape changes on a daily basis and it really would help to mitigate monotony which is known as a major psychological threat.”
“Wow” you’re probably saying, “that place is really nice! I’d stay there even if it were on earth!” Well, buddy, you’re in luck. AI SpaceFactory is taking their concept and building it here.
David Riedel, Co-Founder and Managing Director:What we’ve developed so far, printing at scale and taking that application and bringing it to an hour north of new york, where people can go and experience this new type of habitat.
It’s called TERA. Not only does it look like MARSHA, but it will also be made out of MARSHA.After the NASA competition, AI SpaceFactory broke their model down. And will reuse it to build TERA. It hopes to finish by Fall 2019 and soon after, you might be able to book your stay. But TERA is more than just a futuristic cabin.
David Riedel: In order to get to the next step of building on the moon or mars we need more practice, so this is an opportunity for us to refine our technology and refine some of the problems we found in our NASA print and push it to the next step.